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  • THE ENVIROBUBBLE: CLEAN AIR PODS REDUX

    the envirobubble: clean air pods redux
    barcelona SPAIN

    suckerPUNCH: describe your project.

    envirobubble TEAM: The “Envirobubble” installation is the result of a summer workshop held at the Technical University of Crete, Greece in August 2010. The installation was exhibited at the Design Museum of Barcelona in Spain (Disseny Hub) between March and June 2011 within the framework of the exhibition “EcoRedux 02: Design Manuals for a Dying Planet.”

    Credits | Research and Design Team for “THE ENVIROBUBBLE” installation:
    Kostis Oungrinis and Marianthi Liapi (Technical University of Crete, Greece)
    Anna Pla Catalá (IE School of Architecture, University of Madrid, Spain)
    Lydia Kallipoliti and Michael Young (The Cooper Union, New York, USA)

    Student Project Team (Technical University of Crete, Greece):
    Georgios Andresakis, Yiannis Apostolopoulos, Tzeny Gorantonaki , Eirini Kalogeropoulou, Michalis Kantarzis, Despina Linaraki, Ioannis Liofagos, Dimitris Mairopoulos, Evangelos Alexandros Maistralis, Anna Neratzouli , Iasonas Paterakis, Eleni Roupa, Aggeliki Terezaki, Alma Tralo, Vassilis Tsesmetzis, Dimitris Vaimakis, Anna-Maria Moschouti-Vermer, Georgia Voradaki.

    1970, Lower Sproul Plaza at the University of California, Berkeley:
    The underground architecture collective Antfarm staged the performance “Breathing – That’s your Bag,” inviting visitors to enter an enclosed pneumatic bubble, in order to breathe safely sealed off from the air pollution outside. The bubble, called the “Clean Air Pod” (CAP), would screen out noxious atmospheric contaminants and shield the people sheltered in the envelope. With an idiosyncratic sense of humor, Antfarm -Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez, Doug Michels and Curtis Schreier- wore gas masks, protective gear and white laboratory suits to survive outdoor air pollution; they urged passing visitors to sign death consent forms if choosing not to come into the Clean Air Pod. The Oakland Tribune reported Antfarm’s recital as if it were to happen in the future; per Antfarm’s request, the event was published as a forecast for April 22, 1972.
    Air quality in urban environments was a primary press headline in the environmental campaign of the 1960s and 1970s. Toxic air, smog and the fear of asphyxiation in cities fueled a collective sociopolitical battle against pollution for all parties that composed the political scenery at the time. On one hand, Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration was markedly active on the issue, having signed several “clean air acts” with the scope of protecting the environment. On the other hand, countercultural activist groups shared similar concerns, as witnessed in numerous proactive performances and riots with respiratory devices. Parallel to Antfarm, Vettor Pisani’s Stampo Virile (published in Casabella, January 1971) featured a woman unable to breathe without a respirator. With the title, translated as the “imprint of man,” Pisani reflected on John McHale’s vision of bodily prosthetic devices as an imminent prerequisite of human survival and raised a severe critique of large scale infrastructure and social reality. At the same year, the anarchist British architectural group “Street Farmer” released a manifesto on the first page of their self-published homonymous magazine, prognosticating that fresh air would soon constitute a new prominent type of real estate to purchase. The kinship between governmental goals and countercultural group was a paradoxical convergence from antithetical social streams that led to entirely different sets of actions; yet the concerns stemmed from a common point of departure that marked the dawn of the age of ecology as a gallant political and religious position.
    With the impact of the whole earth view and the rise of environmental awareness in the postwar period, sustainable design practices have promoted buildings as regenerative and closed ecological systems, capable of harnessing waste and providing their own energy. Antafrm’s Clean Air Pod, as a protective uterine-like environment, has been reiteratively translated as a conserved milieu blocked from the effluence of the exterior world. Forty years after, however, we may consider the viability of closed ecological systems and the process of translating planetary ideals to environmental policies and consequently to a set of physical rules and artifacts in the building industry. Enclosed spaces were tested in the massive Biosphere 2 project in Arizona, which was completed and sealed in 1991; after a period of time, fresh air had to be pumped and food introduced into the sphere to ensure the health of the sealed subjects. But beyond the Biosphere 2, the enclosed space of the Biosphere’s “envirobubble” lives within thousands of sick buildings of corporate America. Sealed, heavily air-conditioned buildings usually generate problematic airborne conditions, resulting from a building’s lack of exchange with its surrounding environment. In most sick buildings, there cannot be an identifiable cause for illness, as a causal effect of a specific deficiency. A 1984 World Health Organization Committee report suggested that up to 30 percent of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may be the subject of excessive complaints related to indoor air quality and suffer from what is known as the “sick building syndrome”, a term used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building.
    2011, Design Hub (D-Hub) Barcelona, Spain:
    Inspired by Antfarm’s project for the theatrical purification of air in urban environments, five architecture professors from the Cooper Union in New York, the Technical University of Crete (TUC) and the IE school of Madrid led a collaborative design and fabrication workshop (Crete, Greece August 2010) with the intention to revisit the issues raised in the 1960s, still eminent today. More than a dozen students from TUC worked laboriously on inventing architectural prototypes for air chambers as purifying machines. During the workshop, we revisited Reyner Banham’s celebrated “well–tempered environment” in HVAC building systems and examined a diverse body of building technology techniques translated as design and spatial tools for the development of air purifying strategies in enclosed spaces.
    The research was consolidated in “The Envirobubble” installation fabricated at the Design Hub of Barcelona in March 2011. “The Envirobubble” raises issues on air quality still prominent today, though questioning at the same time if the air we breathe indoors is more hazardous than the air we breathe outdoors. We seek to expand awareness from outdoor to indoor air quality and alert visitors as to the breathable air in heavily sealed air conditioned buildings, with high degrees of condensation.
    “The envirobubble” presents four types of air pods as purifying machines. Each cluster of air pods performs and visualizes a purification process focusing on different types of pollutants: A) Dust (particulate inorganic matter) B) Moisture (humidity levels) D) Gas (toxic off-gas emissions E) CO2 (plant respiration). By opening up a perspective on the development of indoor air quality as an architectural design problem, rather than an engineering problem, the aim is to initiate a vital reassessment of environmental control in design terminology.
    Moisture Pod: The moisture pod harvests water vapor (humidity) from the air and collects it in pneumatic tanks for further alternative use. Matrices of interconnecting tubes “farm” water vapor, via temperature change accommodated in the matrix, and distribute droplets of water in plastic pods. The tubes are located according to the process of vapor distillation. . In the lower part of the pod, moisture is reaching two vessels and is then recirculated for other programs. The moisture pod is envisioned as a prototype for a building system that dehumidifies the air, improving indoor air quality, while at the same time collects water to be recycled for irrigating plants or for secondary household water systems.
    Dust Pod: Dust is an assemblage of particulate matter ubiquitous in the air and a leading pollutant in indoor air quality. In the domestic scale, it contains small amounts of human and animal hairs and shed skin particles, plant pollen, textile and paper fibers, soil minerals from outdoor soil, and other matter found in the local environment. The Dust Pod is an electrical dust collector, which ionizes dust particles and collects them on a net of strings that in time grow into a surface. Ionization is conducted via copper wire to which high voltage is applied. The Dust Pod is envisioned as a prototype for a building system that purifies the air from particulate matter, while at the same time collects dust to create insulating felt surfaces for other uses.
    CO2 Pod: The CO2 Pod uses plant life as a purification system for the atmosphere. Through photosynthesis, and more specifically through respiration, plants absorb CO2, exhaled by humans, and return oxygen. Human respiration and plant respiration work supplementary. This continuous cycle links the breathing mechanisms of two species. The CO2 Pod is a moving, breathing “lung” that regulates the respiration percentage of carbon dioxide through the expansion and contraction of plant life surface area. A series of pneumatically controlled pods embedded in the plants modulate the inflation and deflation of plant surface area in response to different times within a day. CO2 is exhaled into the pod and absorbed by the respiring “plant lung.” In return, the air pod exhales back, emitting oxygen to the room.
    Gas Pod: Indoors, we daily inhale colorless and odorless toxic gases produced from daily activities. VOCs, is a group of volatile organic compounds, carbon based chemicals that evaporate as off-gases from certain solids and liquids at room temperature. They pervade our indoor air with concentrations that can be two to ten times greater in comparison to outdoor air. VOCs have potentially damaging health effects, like eye, nose and throat irritation, respiratory tract irritation, headaches, nausea, allergic skin reactions, fatigue, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment, among other symptoms. There are numerous kinds of volatile organic compounds produced and used in manufacturing products. The Gas Pod is a serial filtering system which procedurally cleans air from the first pod onwards, until clean air is emitted to the room. The gas pod is envisioned as a prototype for a building system that filters air and prevents the intrusion of biological life indoors, while at the same time creates a series of overlapping layers with various degrees of transparency and opacity for the exterior envelope.

    Text by Lydia Kallipoliti

    Image Captions

    Image 1: Experiments for the CO2 Air Pod of “The Envirobubble” installation conducted at the Technical University of Crete in Greece, 2010. Kostis Oungrinis and Marianthi Liapi with Georgios Andresakis, Yiannis Apostolopoulos, Tzeny Gorantonaki , Eirini Kalogeropoulou, Michalis Kantarzis, Despina Linaraki, Ioannis Liofagos, Dimitris Mairopoulos, Evangelos Alexandros Maistralis, Anna Neratzouli , Iasonas Paterakis, Eleni Roupa, Aggeliki Terezaki, Alma Tralo, Vassilis Tsesmetzis, Dimitris Vaimakis, Anna-Maria Moschouti-Vermer, Georgia Voradaki.

    Images 2, 3: Diagrams for the CO2 and Moisture Air Pod of “The Envirobubble” installation by Lydia Kallipoliti and Michael Young.
    Image 4: Kostis Oungrinis and students from the Technical University of Crete (Greece) assembling the installation at the Design Hub in Barcelona, (March, 2011). Georgios Andresakis, Yiannis Apostolopoulos, Tzeny Gorantonaki , Eirini Kalogeropoulou, Michalis Kantarzis, Despina Linaraki, Ioannis Liofagos, Dimitris Mairopoulos, Evangelos Alexandros Maistralis, Anna Neratzouli , Iasonas Paterakis, Eleni Roupa, Aggeliki Terezaki, Alma Tralo, Vassilis Tsesmetzis, Dimitris Vaimakis, Anna-Maria Moschouti-Vermer, Georgia Voradaki.

    Images 5-10: “The Envirobbuble” installation by Kostis Oungrinis, Lydia Kallipoliti, Anna Pla Catalá, Marianthi Liapi, Michael Young with Georgios Andresakis, Yiannis Apostolopoulos, Tzeny Gorantonaki , Eirini Kalogeropoulou, Michalis Kantarzis, Despina Linaraki, Ioannis Liofagos, Dimitris Mairopoulos, Evangelos Alexandros Maistralis, Anna Neratzouli , Iasonas Paterakis, Eleni Roupa, Aggeliki Terezaki, Alma Tralo, Vassilis Tsesmetzis, Dimitris Vaimakis, Anna-Maria Moschouti-Vermer, Georgia Voradaki.

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