Although the Big Apple’s abundance of elevated water towers — there are more than 10,000 across New York City with most being made from redwood and measuring 12-feet high and 13-feet in diameter — fall into the architectural eyesore category more than anything, 300 of these ubiquitous rooftop reservoirs across all five boroughs will be getting snazzy, awareness-raising makeovers come spring 2013 thanks to the Water Tower Project, a three-month long public art initiative from the folks at N.Y.-based nonprofit, Word Above the Street.
With the goal of promoting the importance of water conservation while increasing “the appreciation of NYC’s high-quality drinking water and education about the negative consequences of plastic waste,” each of the carefully selected (read: non-obscured, highly visible) elevated water tanks will be wrapped in original, H2O-centric artwork from bold face names — Jay-Z, Thom Yorke, Ed Ruscha, Fab Five Freddie, Marilyn Minter and Lawrence Weiner to name a few — emerging artists, and ordinary, artistically inclined New Yorkers including high school students. Normally overlooked, the freshly decked-out water towers are meant to prompt the 8.4 million residents of NYC to reflect on their own at-home water habits and the future of H2O in general. And, of course, the millions of tourists who descend upon the city (they’re normally gawking upwards most of the time, anyways) will be forced to set down their Century 21 shopping bags for a moment to admire the “think tanks” in the sky and ponder the importance of access to clean drinking water.
Naturally, the project will also consist of a hefty tech-based element involving a mobile app, social media, online multimedia tools, and a website “with an emphasis on curation as well as exclusive content in the fields of art, water-awareness, and NYC culture and exploration.” The designer of the app and other branding will be none other than humanitarian-minded industrial designer extraordinaire Yves Béhar.
The art itself will be printed on weatherproof material and secured to each tank with corset ties (click here to find out how building owners can “volunteer” their rooftop tanks) by a team of specialists. After the 12-week run of the program, the art will be removed from each of the 300 structures and the material will be repurposed by Word Above the Street — kind of a shame it’s all just temporary given that the global "water issue" isn't going to disappear anytime soon.
Lots more details on what's in store for New York's iconic water storage units at Watertowerproject.org and at the Water Tower Project Facebook page. And in case you wondering about Jay-Z's involvement, it's not all that random: the hip-hop megastar and new dad worked alongside UNICEF on the "Water for Life" initiative.