With the world’s largest smog vacuum, the Dutch designer delivers an in-your-face reminder of the threat from pollution.
Only 12 per cent of city dwellers live in areas where air quality meets safe levels, according to the World Health Organization – and that’s just among cities that report their data. The dream of clean air everywhere spurred Dutch artist and designer to invent his Smog Free Tower. Working with a team of scientists and engineers over two years, he has realized what he calls “the world’s largest smog vacuum.”
The seven-metre tower, a hexagonal structure clad in horizontal aluminum louvres, employs filters similar to those found in hospitals, with ionization technology that uses a static charge to clear the air of pollutants. Roosegaarde’s scaled-up version pulls in air through a radial vent at the top, filtering 30,000 cubic metres per hour and releasing it through a series of vents to create a large bubble of clean air. Now stationed in Rotterdam, the tower is set to tour several cities – including some with extremely poor air quality, such as Beijing – as part of Studio Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Project.
As for what happens to the pollutants collected, the studio seals tiny masses of the sooty particles in clear plastic and sets them into stainless steel rings and cufflinks, each representing 1,000 cubic metres of air cleaned. While this may be not an entirely practical use, Roosegaarde hopes the visual, like that of the tower itself, will inspire others to work toward cleaner air. “It makes people aware of smog,” he says, “and how it actually looks.” Above all, the Smog Free Tower’s visible presence may get the clean air conversation really started.