We are staying with marine litter for our most popular August post here on The Ecospot – this time with a review of Project Ocean at Selfridges…
(first posted August 15)
As I have mentioned here before, in a childhood long long ago, I wanted to be a marine biologist. I was fascinated by the sea – the abundance yet invisibility of the life. The variety and the scale of those underwater cities, filled me with wonder. Fast forward a few years, and even having decided that design and architecture was my calling, the childhood awe for our oceans never drifted away. This, coupled with the studio foundation in sustainable design is why the issue of marine litter – and particularly plastic waste holds such a concern for us. So – it was with delight that we found that this years Project Ocean exhibition at Selfridges, London, was to focus on this very subject…
It may seem quite odd for a huge department store, which of course, is based on our insatiable appetite for consumption to hold an exhibition of this kind. However, where better place to educate the masses of the issues at hand? By situating the exhibition in a side section of the homewares section in the basement we were optimistic that it would be rammed with people keen to learn more.
This, unfortunately, was not the case.
Having battled through shoppers on an end-of-the-week spending binge, we entered the exhibition under a ceiling installation of single use water bottles and into a beautifully conceived, yet ghostly quiet space. It was a real shock.
But this was but one of many shocks we discovered at the Project Ocean exhibition. The ceiling of the entrance featured an installation by How About Studio, constructed from 5,000 single use plastic water bottles diverted from the London waste stream – representing the amount of bottles used by the UK market every 15 seconds, which was staggering. Of course, not all of these single use bottles will end up in the ocean, but considering the recycling rates are so pitifuly low, it certainly puts the issue into perspective.
Turning left into the space, we were greeted by a large poster featuring the most dangerous species in the ocean, from a cotton bud sea urchin to a plastic bag jellyfish, again with sobering data on how long plastic waste persists in the water, and the damage it creates.
Project Ocean is split into two halves, with the Water Bar and the main Exhibition – we headed to the Water Bar area, which concentrates on Selfridges own commitments to the cause. The long, recycled glass bar is clean and modern in shades of nautical blue and white and is where the resident ‘water sprites’ dispense free water to visitors, tinted with herbs, essences and fresh fruit.
Behind the bar is a small yet intriguing collection of water vessels from around the world – from clay pots to aluminium French cycling bottles – all reusable, which contrasted well with the abundance of single use water bottles hanging over our heads as we entered the space.
Alongside the Water Bar was a small collection of the vessels that can be purchased from Selfridges, from bpa free plastic bottles to elegant glass carafes and chunky glasses. We were delighted to see that these were sat on a chunk of recycled plastic from Smile Plastics, which not only gave a very relevant nod to the Project Ocean focus, but looked wonderful. This is something we are very keen to promote – as designers it is up to us to specify these types of recycled materials to encourage others to produce materials from ‘waste’.
But the Selfridges commitment also involves the removal of all single use plastic water bottles from their cafes and food halls, and the installation of a public water fountain instead – encouraging people and providing a source for people to refill their own vessels. The water ‘tinting’ will only last for the duration of the Project Ocean exhibition (until early September), but this action will hopefully make people consider their choices…
Join us for Part two on 19th August where we enter the exhibition part of Project Ocean…
(all images by claire potter)