An impressive immersive installation to reveal what cannot be seen: data on the water crisis and the technological innovations of the design system to deal with it

Under the surface tells the central role of water in our lives and in environmental sustainability. The immersive installation designed by Emiliano Ponzi together with Accurat and Design Group Italia for the International Bathroom Exhibition (16-21 April, Rho Fiera Milano) showcases data on water sustainability, the climate crisis and water supply sweet, together with all that invisible technology that the bathroom system is using to save resources without affecting performance.

We talked about it with Emiliano Ponzi, who here talks about the genesis of the project, the importance of collaboration between peers and how information, open source data and art come together in Under the surface.

What was the initial inspiration for Under the surface?

Emiliano Ponzi: “The Salone del Mobile asked us for a proposal for an installation capable of illustrating how technology is present in the bathroom sector with an ecological purpose.

The objective is to visualize in an aesthetic setting the data relating to water consumption per capita, the quantity of precipitation at a global level and the relationship between consumption and the quantity of water actually available.

There is therefore a part of Under the surface that serves to make the emergency numbers clear, but also the industry's commitment to dealing with the scarcity of resources.

In concrete terms, it is a series of technologies that improve the performance of shower heads, drains and jets using less water. A commitment that is not obvious and which actually concerns every part of the production process and the consumer phase."

What will visitors to Under the surface see?

Emiliano Ponzi: "Under the surface is a dynamic digital scenography of 400 square metres which, in a vaguely dystopian atmosphere, stages educational and The story is visualized through an underwater archipelago within which the public can move, walk and stop.

The project gives the sensation of being below the water surface thanks to the chromatic modulation of the walls and a light design project that mimics the effects of light refraction. The different 3D visual elements communicate data, illustrate the hydraulic and technological mechanisms through holograms, give 360° information on the topic of water saving.

Accurat's visualization work of the data collected through the World Bank Open Data has the aim of increasing public awareness of water scarcity linked to climate change.

The aestheticizing elements serve to convey the contextual data in a more engaging and clear, less didactic way. Sea creatures and rocks become containers of information and communication tools that are much more expressive than a graph or two-dimensional drawing.

Entering the space, the public discovers three glass niches behind which 3D holograms are projected which describe the parts of design and technological innovation that concern the bathroom industry".

What was the most important aspect in designing Under the Surface?

Emiliano Ponzi: “I believe it is the shared process with Accurat and Design Group Italia to build an organic vision of each design phase.

Net of the Salone's policy, we wanted to deal thoroughly with the choice of materials, their disposal, and the possibility of recycling and reusing all the solid parts of Under the surface.

We chose to build the structure in EPS, a rigid and very light polymer, easily disposable. We have identified the partners who will take care of decommissioning the installation and directing the material to the production of acoustic panels for the construction sector.

Another fundamental part of the project story is its chorality. It was team work and the synergy was a driver of innovation in a democratic, collaborative context. Every opinion was listened to and evaluated, to make the best possible choices.

Finally there is my personal evaluation of the collaboration with the Salone del Mobile. A mutually serious and respectful tone of voice that cannot ignore a solid human relationship."

From illustration to the design of a three-dimensional installation. What difficulties do you encounter when changing scale?

Emiliano Ponzi: "Imagining the final output of a three-dimensional project is very difficult. The leap in average corresponds to a leap in imagination and tolerance. Under the surface there are 400 square meters over which we have no control over the level of noise pollution, we do not know how the musical background created by Accurat starting from the rhythmisation of the data will be perceived. And there is no control even over the surrounding lighting, the transparencies and chromatic permeability of the entire structure, which will be surrounded by stands.

So mine was a transversal art direction role, to follow and coordinate the work of all the professionals involved.

There was also a very physical aspect, which I am not used to: we saw the prototypes, which helped us make formal evaluations together with technicians and lighting workers with vertical expertise in all design aspects. It's the exciting part of a big group project, an antidote to boredom, my worst fear."