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According to the United Nations, over 1.6 billion people worldwide are facing an economic water shortage. Lack of infrastructure, uneven distribution and the contamination of freshwater sources have forced people to think outside the box for an immediate solution to the global phenomenon.

To help raise awareness, MoMA PS1 held an event that brought the next generation of innovative architects together to collaborate on designs surrounding water scarcity issues. The latest installment that caught the attention of many environmental organizations is a giant ornamental sculpture capable of purifying over 3,000 gallons of water called COSMO.

Created by New York City and Madrid-based Spanish architect Andrés Jaque, the colossal piece not only looks aesthetically pleasing, but also has the ability to sustain human life.

“Last year Hy-Fi, a nearly zero carbon footprint construction by The Living, raised awareness of ecological and climate change. This year COSMO continues to do so, addressing the issue of increasingly scarce water supplies worldwide in a successful and innovative way,” highlighted Klaus Biesenbach, MoMA PS1 Director and MoMA Chief Curator at Large.

The Water Tower of Hope

The COSMO circular tower is a well-crafted structure that could make traditional water purifying systems more appealing to the public. Inside the sculpture, water is put through a strict filtering process that removes hazardous particles and nitrates. It also restores healthy pH levels back to a range that is fit for human consumption (water outside of the normal 6.5-8.5 reading can weaken the body).

Plants around the frame manage the purification process. As water goes through the pots, the plants are also nourished through the energy-saving method. After completing the process, the center of the monument lights up, indicating that the water is ready to be distributed to thirsty individuals. It takes four days to complete one cycle. Batches of water may undergo the process several times, if needed.

COSMO close up shot

Reaching People Who Need Water

In line with recent technological advancements, the COSMO sculpture is surprisingly mobile. Large wheels are used to move around the community or onto a vessel, where it can be transported to a different location. During gatherings the ornamental structure may serve as a party-artifact and a pivotal conversation starter, as it strikes curiosity in the minds of onlookers.

Jaque was also careful to keep the design simple, allowing other people to reproduce the piece using common parts with minimal effort. The pipes in place supporting the purification system are not connected to the city’s waterlines.

COSMO water purifying system night shot

MoMA PS1’s Young Architects Program

“This year’s proposal takes one of the Young Architects Program’s essential requirements–providing a water feature for leisure and fun–and highlights water itself as a scarce resource,” said Pedro Gadanho, Curator in MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design.

“Relying on off-the-shelf components from agro-industrial origin, an exuberant mobile architecture celebrates water-purification processes and turns their intricate visualization into an unusual backdrop for the Warm Up sessions.”

Individuals who would like to see the water system in action can check out the display at MoMA PS1 Gallery until September 7, 2015.

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