A critical design project creating a complicated pleasure experience to force people reflect upon their everyday encounter of having to physically disrupt an ecosystem in order to obtain water for consumption

1 month

Prototyping  |  Design  |  Physical modeling

Grant Zou, Rosanne wong

Project time-frame                       




Fresh water is vital to the survival of all living things and yet it is a finite resource. Canada’s modest population in relation to its large water resource has created a common perception of unlimited freshwater availability. With our constant reliance on fresh water for not only survival but also on agriculture, manufacturing, and recreation, we can expect a significant increase in water demand. Many of these existing uses has became our condition of supporting society; and now even drinking water puts pressure on water resources, stresses that are likely to be exacerbated by climate change which leads to harming the coexisting living organisms.

Using Critical Design, we want to delve into the connection between human health and our marine ecosystems by highlighting how human appropriation of water resources is impacting aquatic life forms. In our efforts to harvest water, the alteration of a river’s flow, such as dams, often disrupts the ecosystems that rely on the replenishment of sediments which are essential to physical processes and habitats. We have become accustomed to this convenience and often do not reflect upon how our accessibility to water is at the expense of coexisting species. ZERO - ∑ forces the everyday encounter of having to physically disrupt an ecosystem in order to obtain water for consumption.


After we came up with the concept, we explored different forms through sketches and prototyping for our fish tank/water dispenser. We first decided to build the tank with more organic form to match with the nature of water. However, during the prototyping stage, we realized that we were constraint with the form due to the material choice we picked - acrylic plastic. The acrylic plastic was not strong enough to hold the water, and eventually water started to leak.


After the feedback we got back from our professor and TA, we decided to replace plastic with glass. By using glass, it has a stronger hold for the water. At first we had trouble figuring out how to glue the glasses together with silicone, but after a multiple tries, we were able to assemble the pieces together.

During the process of building our project, we struggled to convey our idea through our design. I learn that the choice of material, how we contextualized our product, and all the small details matter when it comes to presenting. Every decisions we made affect how the audiences perceived our project and the meaning behind it. We spent weeks to refine the execution of our final product and make sure that we communicate our idea through the design. 

using acrylic and wood for prototyping

sealing the glass pieces together

testing for water leakage