Italian studio Arabeschi di Latte and curator Jane Withers have installed a bar at London's Selfridges that invites visitors to "imagine life without the plastic water bottle" as part of an exhibition about ocean plastic (+ slideshow).
The blue-speckled Water Bar is part of the Project Ocean exhibition, which intends to raise awareness of the environmental impact of plastic accumulating at the centre of the world's largest bodies of water.
The issue has become a popular topic among designers. Pharrell Williams used it to produce a range of clothes, Adidas has launched trainers in collaboration with British designer Alexander Taylor, and a young designer has created a machine to harvest tonnes of the waste material from the sea.
"Between 5 and 14 million tonnes of plastic are estimated to enter our oceans every year, contributing to the existence of a floating plastic 'soup' now estimated altogether to be twice the size of the United States and amounting to five trillion plastic pieces," said a statement from Jane Withers, who curated the exhibition at the department store.
Serving water treated with charcoal, minerals and herbs, the Water Bar was designed by Arabeschi di Latte – a London- and Milan-based collective that focuses on the intersection of food and design.
The bar is made from a terrazzo material comprising recycled glass and epoxy resin, with taps and pipes in copper and brass. A seating area is formed with enamelled metal and brass tables, paired with wood and terrazzo stools.
"The project concept was to reinvent water drinking rituals without the single-use plastic bottle that has become our default, but is so harmful to the environment," Withers told Dezeen.
"The project makes reference to the rituals of 'taking the waters' in Italian Terme and spas, and this also informs the design of the long bar and double taps and 'terrace' of tables."
A range of vessels – from decorative ceramics to unusual glass containers – are displayed on a wall next to the bar, presenting alternatives to plastic bottles.
To present their Gyrecraft project, studio founders Azusa Murakami and Alex Groves – along with collaborator Andrew Friend – installed a replica of the 22-metre research ship on which they sailed to the North Atlantic Gyre and collected plastic to make their collection of objects.
Inside the ship, visitors can listen to interviews with the crew recorded by journalist Kate Rawles and learn about the effects of plankton eating plastic.
At the entrance to the exhibition, London-based How About Studio has mounted over 5,000 used plastic water bottles – roughly the number used every 15 seconds or less in the UK – onto the ceiling.
Beside the installation is a poster by Barcelona agency Studio Smäll titled The Most Dangerous Creatures in the Ocean. The graphic depicts common plastic pollution in the shapes of fish, and describes its effect on marine life.
As part of the initiative set up with the Zoological Society of London and the Marine Reserves Coalition, plastic bottles have been banned throughout the store and visitors are invited to refill their own vessels at a drinking fountain in the food hall.
Project Ocean is open until 3 September 2015 at Selfridges, which is due to be overhauled by British architect David Chipperfield.