Why projects like the Bruges Whale Skyscraper are a great way to highlight the need for sustainability
It wasn't until 2015 that I even knew sustainability was a thing. At the time, I was also unaware of the increasingly growing plastic pollution, currently consuming masses of the ocean around the world. I had just started working for G-Star RAW and the denim brand was in partnership with Parley For The Oceans - a non-profit, set out to address the major threats towards our beautiful oceans. Together along with the backing of Pharrell Williams and his company Bionic Yarn, they would be the first to create denim clothing from recycled ocean plastic, named RAW For The Ocean.
The RAW For The Oceans collection, was an incredible effort to not only highlight a problem but to also take action and do something about it, amongst the current boom around sustainable fashion. The aim was to build awareness and educate consumers on the consequences that are arising, due to the lack of recycling materials such as plastics. The Plastic Age documentary was my first encounter, to the real life problems we are facing with our oceans. The collection aided in the removal of tonnes of ocean plastic, developing a solution to the ongoing problem. Parley then went on to work with sportswear giant Adidas, who continue to make and sell products made from recycled ocean plastic today.
Fast forward to 2018 where I was pleasantly surprised by an incredible project being actioned by award-winning architecture and design firm STUDIOKCA. Approached by the organisers of the 2018 Bruges Triennial to create an art piece interpreting the idea of a “liquid city.” The concept of this defined a city that's an ever changing set of consumer transactions, whose identity is in flux as cities grow more and more connected through globalisation. Thinking of the biggest liquid city in today's existence, being the ocean - the firm wanted to showcase the connection we all have to the ocean and how waste produced in cities around the world, specifically 150,000,000 tons of plastic waste, was ended up in our ocean.
Working with the Hawaii Wildlife Fund and the Surfrider Foundation Kaui Chapter, the design firm were able to collect over five tons of plastic within four months, their efforts leading to the creation of 'Skyscaper' - near enough a four story tall whale, emerging out of one of Bruges' main canals, and arching over the historic Jan Van Eyck Square, right within the city's centre.
"Skyscraper is a physical example of why we need to change how we use and dispose of plastic in the world today" - Lesley Chang, Principal, STUDIOKCA
In a statement made on STUDIOKCA's website, the firm shared, "Scientists estimate that there is more plastic waste from our cities, swimming in the ocean than there are whales. A whale, breaching from the water, is the first skyscraper of the sea, and as the largest mammal in the water, it felt like the right form for our piece to take in order to show the scope and scale of the problem."
It's projects like this that really help bring awareness to the problems of the world, that we are all unfortunately part of the cause in some way or another. Recycling is one thing but perhaps the effort to avoid using plastics altogether, would be a little more helpful. Companies and brands are now doing more to help against the causes of plastic pollution. Supermarkets charge for bags, many retailers now use paper bags, plastic straws are becoming extinct from bars and pubs - an ignition of global responsibility is taking place and it's a wonderful thing. Sustainable products are becoming more available and the more people are aware, the more we can all make a conscious effort to develop and live by sustainability.