Below the Surface

trophy Awarded

Water is our most sacred resource, one that we take advantage of through our destructive relationship with plastic which is rapidly infecting our waterways. The current methods of treating plastic pollution are not effective nor fast enough to overcome our repetitively toxic relationship. ‘Below the Surface’ changes the dynamic of our relationship within the systems to mitigate and reduce plastic waste from entering our waterways. Uncover what cannot be seen and discover what’s really below the surface.

Audio-visual representation of Below the Surface

“plastic is a substance the earth cannot digest”

Jeff Bridges

Background + Significance

Relationship between the natural & human ecosystems in relation to
anthropogenic plastic pollution.


The plastic pollution crisis is an issue that has been affecting our planet for the past seventy years. Half of all plastic in existence, was manufactured within the last fifteen years (Parker, 2017). This pollution comes in many sizes; mega, meso, macro, micro and nano, as well as different grades; 1 through 7 (Maximenko et al., 2019).

Macro plastic or ‘anthropogenic plastic debris’ is provided the opportunity to accumulate in the waterways through system transference. Current practices, perceptions and behaviours of the societal human system are the main cause of the plastic pollution problem. Humankind is lazy and will do whatever is most convenient. This even includes purposeful or accidental pollution of the waterways (Willis et al., 2019).


Single-use plastics lifecycle.

The normality of using plastic in everything is engrained into our culture. However, the use, relationship, and reckless disposal of plastics are having an extremely detrimental impact on all ecosystems, humans included.

This obsession with plastic, especially single-use plastic, has only become stronger with the recent developments of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Unfortunately, due to the relationship the societal system has with plastic, a large portion of this waste is becoming debris within our environment. In Wuhan, China, there has been a 500% increase in daily medical waste, Thailand has had a 320% increase in daily plastic waste and the UK has had a 300% increase in plastic littering (Duer, 2020).

Global through to SEQ waste output.
Australia alone contributes 0.02% of the global river plastic input (Ritchie & Roser, 2018). Three-quarters of all waste found along Queensland’s coastlines is plastic and coincidentally, 82% of all Australians love along the coastlines (Boomerang Alliance, 2015); (Hardesty et al., 2016).

Additionally, Queensland contains the most litter, as it is 41% higher than the national average (Boomerang Alliance, 2015); (Moore, 2019). Moreton bay receives 750m3 of anthropogenic waste per day, killing 30% of turtles via ingestion and another 6% via entanglement (Boomerang Alliance, 2015).

Vision + Application

Master Plan

Master Planning

The master plan of the Wynnum Foreshore shows a number of interventions which fulfil the elements of the theoretical lens and behavioural systems strategy (found within the full report). The creation of a series of interventions within the one site provides the users with a multitude of different and memorable experiences. These experiences will encourage and incentivise the local community to change their perceptions, whilst drawing them back to the site. The implementation of ‘Below the Surface’ creates a new relationship between the land and sea, and those who inhabit both realms. The project gives a new understanding to the value of the waterways. The shape and design is unique to the Wynnum Foreshore to represent its individuality and unique issues.
Tidal Adaptations

Tidal Adaptations

The shape the paths take follow the ripples left in the sand/mudflats at low tide. This represents and symbolises the imprinting effects of water.

The three horizontal bands taken by the paths represent the three major increments of the tide. This has been done to act as a clock for those within the local area. When the installation is implemented, people will be able to use the paths as an indicator to tell the height of the tide. Allowing the community to further connect with the foreshore.

The tunnels within the design have been placed strategically so that they disappear at high tide. This gives new literal meaning to ‘there’s something below the surface’.

Top: high tide
Middle: low tide
Bottom: current site state

Other elements within the site have been manipulated to work with the tide. This reinforces the new relationship between land and sea. Particular parts of the site, such as the tunnels are best used when the tide is high and other elements such as the artificial mangroves, are best used at low tide. These elements have been implemented to create a multitude of new and different experiences throughout all times of the day and night. At low tide, the design of the installation will be more confronting, as more representation of damage and pollution will be able to be seen and experienced. By working with the tides and adjusting the design, the message of ‘Below the Surface’ pushes and encourages societal behavioural change.

The Wade detailed plan

The Wade

The name itself is taken from the original name, ‘the wading pool’. Wade means, to walk with effort through water or another liquid or viscous substance. The focus here is to ‘walk with effort’, which is what the Wade aims to do.

The wading water is separate and filtered from the water in the bay because the bay is dirty, and full of waste and sediment. Those visiting the foreshore use the wading pool to avoid the plastic pollution problem as the wading pool is more convenient because it’s clean. Therefore, to counteract this, to make people care and to change their perceptions, the convenient needs to become inconvenient and confronting – to walk with effort.
The Wade section one
The wading pool is transformed into a land art piece, made of three large capsules full of plastic waste. The plastic debris within the capsules, will be taken from recycling centres and will be made up of non-recyclable plastics. Displaying plastic waste in this manner, creates a confronting situation, as people are being put face to face with the poison that is suffocating the waterways.

By filling the capsules with non-recyclable plastic, the linear economy is being transformed into a circular economy. This transference will be communicated to the users through the form and elements within the Wade, incentivising the users through the experience to change their perceptions of plastic consumption, ultimately changing their behaviour.

The Wade section: north-west view
The Wade section 2
The capsules within the Wade have been designed to be large and tall, with winding, narrow pathways to make the user feel small. The Wade creates this encapsulating experience to make the user feel as if they’re the small fish in an ocean filled with plastic pollution. This puts the users in the position of the organisms whom are suffering, due to human negligence and greed.

The Wade reinforces this concept of ‘walking with effort’, as the designed experience is not meant to be pleasant. Nothing about the initial experience of the installation is meant to be pleasant. The destruction committed by the human-race is absolutely disgraceful and these interventions are designed to reflect that.

The Wade section: north-east view

The project, the design and the installations, are all transformative over a temporal scape. The installations change over time to reflect the state, improvement and behavioural change within the community and local waterways. The Wade will eventually be removed, with the wading pool reinstated when the community reduces and stops their demand for plastics. Life will return to its normality when the water can breathe.

Artificial Mangroves detailed plan

Artificial Mangroves

The Artificial Mangroves are exactly what the name suggests, artificial mangroves. Throughout the site these mangroves have been implemented to capture and retain plastic debris just like real mangrove aerial roots. By using ‘artificial’ roots and not living mangroves, harm and cruelty of the plants are avoided. This also eliminates any malformation or death of mangroves due to entanglement.

The height of the Artificial Mangroves will be tall enough so that they can still be seen at high tide. This will ensure that nobody is injured or accidentally swims into them. By making the Artificial Mangroves this tall, they will have more range to capture debris.
Artificial Mangroves section one
The implementation of these structures also assists in the protection of the new edge conditions. New beaches have been introduced along parts of the foreshore to change the edge condition; to strengthen the relationship between the land and sea.

These beaches allow users to have easier and more frequent access to the mudflats. Whereas, the current site only has a couple of staircases to access the mudflats. Implementing the beaches encourages new connects with the mudflats and the sea. The Artificial Mangroves provide an incentive to wander out into the mudflats. People are curious creatures and often investigate things that are out of the ordinary.

Artificial Mangroves section: high tide view
Artificial Mangroves section two
It’s at this point of investigation, where the purpose of the Artificial Mangroves will become apparent to the user. This will result in two outcomes;

1. The user will witness the magnitude of the problem when they see that these roots are completely entangled with plastic waste, and
2. Through this experience the user will alter their perception of plastic waste, feel remorse and attempt to clean the Artificial Mangroves.

The Artificial Mangroves represent and symbolise the ecosystems, ecology and vegetation that is being lost due to plastic pollution within the waterways.

Artificial Mangroves section: low tide view
Artificial Mangroves vignette

The root-like structures physically collect and catch debris within the environment and change behavioural perceptions of the users.
Perceptions are altered through experiencing and witnesses the issue first-hand within the environment. This differs from the Wade and the Sink, as the waste is tangible.

The Artificial Mangroves will stay in the site indefinitely, to continue capturing waste and mitigate the erosion of the new beaches. As time progresses and plastic is eliminated from the waterways, the Artificial Mangroves will become a place of habitat and learning.

Over time, the structures will become encased in sea life like barnacles, forming an ecosystem and reinforcing the structures. The learning opportunity arises for children and students to be educated about the adaptability and resilience of marine life.

The Sink detailed plan

The Sink

The Sink is the main installation within the project, as it connects the entirety of the foreshore together. This structure is made up of undulating paths that go under and above water, known as the boardwalk and tunnels.

The undulating nature of this installation is one of the main elements that will attract people to return to the site, to experience it all over again. The tunnels allow the users to go underwater without getting wet, and the boardwalks allow the users to witness vast views of the bay and continue recreational activities. The stairs also provide a point of access for users to swim in the bay at high tide.
Pylons suspend the structure in the water, allowing marine life to move freely around it without fear of the structure moving or falling. The confronting factor of the Sink is the cavities within the walls of the tunnel and shade barriers of the boardwalk. The cavities are filled with plastic debris, showing the true magnitude of the problem within Wynnum.

This waste within the cavities of the walls is collected by the PlasCatch systems installed onto the stormwater outlets along the foreshore. The PlasCatch systems are connected directly to the cavities via a tube that runs underneath the pathways. The water that is inside the cavities, is what pushes the plastic waste through the tubing, allowing for there to be a constant flow of plastic waste.
The Sink section one
The waste within the walls transforms the idealistic recreational space into one of disgust and chaos. The plastic within the walls of the tunnel and boardwalk, is what creates and emphasises the confronting experience for the users.

The foreign and claustrophobic experience is created within the plastic filled segments, as visibility is reduced. Within the tunnel, the plastic will block most of the natural light and view out into the water, and the shade barriers will block the view to the shore.

These experiences make the user feel cut off and separated from the outside world. Forcing them to feel and understand the full depth of the problem, reducing the demand for plastics and ultimately reducing plastic within the waterways.

The Sink section: high tide view
The Sink section two
Claustrophobic and unfamiliar places ignite anxiety and the flight or fight responses within the user. Causing the user to absorb the information around them as quickly as possible, communicating the most important information.

Upon reflection of the experience, the two main things the user will remember are; fear and plastic. The aim of the design is for this experience to be so intense that it will spark behavioural change and make the user actively choose to use, consume and dispose of their plastic wisely.

The Sink section: low tide view

Over the temporal scape, the Sink will be transformed into a place for idealistic recreational use. The place that is designed to be ugly, chaotic, disorientating and confronting, becomes one of beauty and joy. In doing this, the community is given a long-term goal to work towards.

This improves both the waterways of the site and the mindset of the people. Over time, the sites environmental condition improves as plastic use/demand reduces. The plastic debris within the cavities of the Sink, will incrementally reduce and eventually be void.

What is really Below the Surface?

hero shot

Societies consumption and disposal of plastic has been proven to cause damage to our environments. They are continuing to decline due to the overwhelming obsessive use and waste of plastic. Our current methods of treating plastic pollution are not as effective as we need them to be to end this repetitively toxic relationship.

‘Below the Surface’ changes the dynamic of the relationship that society has with the plastic. The project achieves this through the installation of confronting experiences.

To see, one must experience.

Ultimately, the demand of plastic is reduced through the use of confronting experiences. These experiences are reflected on by society, resulting in behavioural change.

The lack of demand reduces the production of plastic and therefore reduces plastic within the waterways.


To learn more about the significance, the project, my journey, and how it all connects, download the full report. Please share what you learn so we can end plastic pollution.

Rebecca Woodbridge

Rebecca Woodbridge is a Landscape Architecture major who has minored in Architecture, Interior and Industrial Design. She has studied this broad range of disciplines to obtain knowledge surrounding design psychology. Rebecca believes that it is important to understand how people act and react to a space, as the impact created by a place can alter everything.