In London, Step out of One Bubble and into Another

“Pollution Pods” exhibition replicates air quality in 5 places around the world.

British artist Michael Pinsky created a temporary exhibition called “Pollution Pods,” — five geodesic domes connected by passages. The atmosphere in each dome replicates the air quality in five cities around the world. (Photo by Thor Nielsen / Norweigan University of Science and Technology)

This is your first of three free stories this month. Become a free or sustaining member to read unlimited articles, webinars and ebooks.

Become A Member

Breathing in polluted air may not be on your bucket list, but brief encounters with some of the world’s most toxic atmospheres are proving irresistible to visitors entering the “Pollution Pods,” a new installation that opened April 18 in the courtyard at London’s historic Somerset House, the Guardian reports.

Each of artist Michael Pinsky’s five linked geodesic domes contains a carefully replicated “artist’s approximation” of the polluted air in cities such as London itself, Beijing, São Paulo and New Delhi. In this work, the British artist attempts to “raise awareness of the problem of pollution around the world.”

Visitors follow their noses from pod to pod, comparing the relatively pristine island air of rural Tautra, Norway, for example, with the humid smog of New Delhi or the eye-watering air in São Paulo, acrid from millions of cars spewing ethanol fumes.

Pinsky developed the air in each pod with the help of scientific research and a London “scent expert.” The air in the “Pollution Pods” installation is so realistic that it comes with an advisory for visitors with respiratory conditions.

The “Pollution Pods” were commissioned for Climart, a multidisciplinary research project based in Norway that is studying ways in which climate-related visual art can affect people’s perceptions of climate change. It’s one innovative approach to the issue of polluted air, which is being addressed by cities around the world in myriad ways.

In Salt Lake City, Utah, for example, temperature inversions (layers of higher-elevation warm air trapping colder air below, along with pollutants from car and factory emissions) create unhealthy smog conditions. So in January, a government partnership funded a free fare day on all public transit. The idea — to get greenhouse-gas-spewing cars off the road during smoggy conditions — was a success, with officials reporting a significant bump in public-transit use. Similar policies have been used to positive effect in both Seoul and Brussels. And last year the mayors of 12 large cities around the world — including Paris, Vancouver, Mexico City and Quito — announced plans for pedestrianized “emissions-free” zones to combat localized air pollution and wrestle with the ramifications of climate change.

Like what you’re reading? Get a browser notification whenever we post a new story. You’re signed-up for browser notifications of new stories. No longer want to be notified? Unsubscribe.

Alexis Lipsitz Flippin is a writer and editor living in New York City.

Tags: climate changepollutionlondon

Next City App Never Miss A StoryDownload our app ×

You've reached your monthly limit of three free stories.

This is not a paywall. Become a free or sustaining member to continue reading.

  • Read unlimited stories each month
  • Our email newsletter
  • Webinars and ebooks in one click
  • Our Solutions of the Year magazine
  • Support solutions journalism and preserve access to all readers who work to liberate cities
  • Brandi in Louisville, KY at $5/Month
  • Nancy at $10/Month
  • Gavri in Plantation, FL at $10/Year

Already a member? Log in here. U.S. donations are tax-deductible minus the value of thank-you gifts. Questions? Learn more about our membership options.

or pay by credit card:

All members are automatically signed-up to our email newsletter. You can unsubscribe with one-click at any time.

  • Donate $20 or $5/Month

    20th Anniversary Solutions of the Year magazine

has donated ! Thank you 🎉