The Water Cube was open for the EQT Children’s Theater Festival earlier this month. Photo by Renee Rosensteel.

If you find yourself Downtown, spare a moment for Pittsburgh’s one-of-a-kind sculpture and drinking fountain: The Water Cube.

Installed at the Penn and 8th Street parklet in 2016, the Water Cube dispenses cold, triple-filtered water — still and sparkling — for free, with dedicated faucets for filling water bottles.

Water Cube
Photo by Renee Rosensteel.

The project, which we wrote about when it opened, is one of several local public art installations managed by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

“Who better than the Cultural Trust to fuse form with function? That’s what they do well,” said John Rohe, vice president of philanthropy for the Colcom Foundation, which funded the Water Cube. “This is an artistic composition that is designed to advance an environmental concern, the use of non-recyclable drinking containers.”

In the three years since the Water Cube was unveiled, single-use plastics have become a major focal point in the battle against climate change. For Pittsburghers seeking to reuse water bottles on a summer day, the Cube is a great local resource.

The project was designed and built locally by GBBN Architects in Garfield working with materials from Wilkinsburg-based Technique Architectural Products.

The glowing Water Cube is lit by an internal LED light system that GBBN says pulsates rhythmically — like a heartbeat — as a reminder of the connection between life and water.

According to the Trust, the Water Cube has served 5,475 gallons of water to 57,456 residents, saving an estimated 41,467 plastic bottles from landfills in its first year of operation alone.

It’s been recognized by the Cincinnati Design Awards and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Pittsburgh for in its innovative design.

“This project takes a water dispenser, an object that often goes unnoticed, and makes it into an object that defines the space,” wrote the judges from AIA Pittsburgh. “It’s very simple and smart. It even glows in the evening, adding to how it creates a welcoming place.”

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.