Water Cube
Filling up at the Water Cube. Photo by Renee Rosensteel.

In a first anywhere in this country, the newly installed Water Cube in downtown Pittsburgh is dispensing chilled still or sparkling water — for free. All you need to do is BYOB. And that’s the whole point.

Water Cube
Photo by Renee Rosensteel.

Located at the parklet on the 8th Street block of Penn Avenue, across from the bike lane, the new installation is the latest functional public art the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is placing throughout the Cultural District, like the eleven artist-designed bike racks installed in 2015.

“Who better than the Cultural Trust than to fuse form with function? That’s what they do well,” says John Rohe, vice-president of philanthropy of 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.”

Designed by Matthew Manzo of GBBN Architects/EDGEstudio in Garfield with materials by Technique Architectural Products of Wilkinsburg this project is not just one-of-a-kind but also locally designed and fabricated. Installed by the Trust, the Water Cube features a dispenser for still water on one side, sparkling on another and two water fountains on a third side, all triple-filtered. At night, the Water Cube lights up, with a subtle pulsing light.

The Water Cube opened just prior to the 2016 EQT Children’s Theater Festival and will have an official opening during the 2016 Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival on June 3.

With this new permanent public art piece, the Trust is providing a unique amenity for residents, visitors, and Cultural District patrons. The piece will not only help to reduce the consumption of bottled water but it will also help beautify the 8th Street block of Penn Avenue and help encourage biking. In the same parklet, the Trust installed a vertical bike corral and fix-it station last year.

“Disposable bottles are found all around us,” says Rohe. “They’re choking the oceans and adding to the landfills. If we’re going to be part of the solution, we have to figure out how to have a drink of water without adding to the waste streams. So here’s free carbonated water. All you need is a bottle.”

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

Maya Haptas has an M.A. in Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell University and is a freelance writer covering various topics from architecture and urban design to wellness and skateboarding. She is currently the assistant editor of Bigfoot Skateboarding Magazine.