Pollution pods illustrate how urbanization affects air quality

Michael Pinksy’s ‘Pollution Pods’ are a series of geodesic air-filled domes, which recreate the smell, temperature and pollution levels of five of the world’s major cities.  

In Delhi, © Thor Nielsen / NTNU

Based on the air quality of London, Beijing, Sao Paulo, New Delhi and the remote part of the Norwegian peninsular of Tautra, Pinksy’s pods demonstrate the invisible dangers of pollution in the built environment and hope to inspire action around climate change.

Entering Beijing, © Thor Nielsen / NTNU

Commissioned for ‘Earth Day’, which takes place on the 22nd of April, the project is on display at Somerset House between the 18-24th, and part of a programme of interactive projects demonstrating the polluting effects that humankind has had on the climate.

Monitoring pollution levels, © Trond Sverre Kristiansen, NTNU

The pods are arranged in a ring in the centre of Somerset House’s courtyard and are designed so that viewer must pass through all of them to reach the exit, allowing individuals to compare the impact that pollution has had on these five locations while demonstrating their interconnectivity.

Pollution Pods at Somerset House, © Michael Pinksy

By interlinking the structures, Pinksy’s installation asks the viewer to consider the socio-political implications behind the world’s pollution problem, focusing on how the excessive consumerism of the West has spread East, and the devastating effects that accelerated urbanization has on each region’s air quality.  

In London, it is estimated that pollution levels reduce life by 16 months, whereas in New Dehli the levels of airborne pollution cut the residents life short by as much as 4 years.

“In the Pollution Pods, I have tried to distil the whole bodily sense of being in each place," says Pinksy. "For instance, being in São Paulo seems like a sanctuary compared to New Delhi, until your eyes start to water from the sensation of ethanol, whilst Tautra is unlike any air you’ll have ever breathed before, it is so pure."

Birdseye view, Trondheim,  © Michael Pinksy

The inspiration for the project was borne out of a commission by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, where Pinksy created an installation similar to the Pollution Pods but of their local city of Trondheim as part of Climart- a research project accessing whether the reception of visual art can impact behaviours in relation to climate change.

Entering Delhi, © Thor Nielsen / NTNUThor Nielsen / NTNU

The geodesic dome pods have been designed by Build with Hubs as modular construction kits that easily fit together. “Once the ball connectors are on your sticks it should take less than an hour to build your dome. Connect the sticks and hubs together and the dome grows up out of the ground," Pinsky explains.

Detail, © Thor Nielsen / NTNU

The construction of the project, Pinksy worked closely with curator and olfactory expert Lizzie Ostrom, the co-curator of the Perfume exhibition at Somerset House in 2017, and Dutch company I Scent to artificially reproduce some of the most common scents present in pollution, inclusive of diesel, burnt plastic, burnt wood, burnt grass and burnt coal.

Entering Sao Paulo, © Michael Pinksy

Pinksy believes that by allowing the viewer to be fully immersed in the work, the Pollution Pods are more likely to inspire both a physical and emotional response in the viewer which he hopes will encourage a change in behaviour.

  Pollution Pods beneath a sunset, © Michael Pinksy

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