Smog Ring

July 2014

On Daan Roosegaarde's techno poetry
Smog Beijing CCTV Tower.
Daan Roosegaarde is about to vacuum-up the foul air in Beijing, and in the process, create pseudo-diamond rings. Featuring compressed smog particles, each high-end ring supports the cleaning of 1000m3 of polluted air. These jewels are symbolic, of course, but also practical, as they will not only engage people in the desire for a city in which they can breathe freely, but they will also raise money for the other aspects of the project. The Smog Free Project unites international environmental organisations, air purifying companies, and philanthropic foundations in realising the development and importance of clean air. Starting with a public environment like a park. 
Like the legendary King Midas who turned everything he touched into gold, Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde wants to turn dust into diamonds. Through the Smog Project, Roosegaarde plans to create a smog-free park in Beijing and, with the captured smog particles, to make rings, aka Smog Diamonds. Each ring will contain 1000 m3 of compressed polluted air. "We want people to feel like citizens, not just tax-payers”, Daan Roosegaarde states. "By using the smog that we capture during the first edition of the smog park and making something poetic with it, we are engaging people in the making of a smarter and cleaner city."
The idea of the Smog Project was born when Roosegaarde visited Beijing in autumn 2013 and was impressed by the heavy air pollution. He saw the impact of smog on people's lives but also on the architecture, as buildings like CCTV, the massive headquarters of China Central Television, were not visible anymore. Thus, he decided to use smog as a design ingredient. "My inspiration came from a memory of when I was a boy playing with balloons that became static electrified. Pure nature and pure technology. Can we use this principle to create clean places?"  
When Roosegaarde launched his idea, it immediately went viral. He signed a three-year agreement with Beijing Design Week to collaborate on the project. The first series of rings is planned for the end of this year; during Beijing Design Week 2015, there will be an exhibition dedicated to the smog solution, with all types of inventions that artists and engineers have already started to send in after reading about the project in the international press. And after that, the Smog Free Park will be instated. Starting with Beijing, the park will travel through China together with the Smog Solution exhibition and the Smog Diamonds.  
In this context, Chinese authorities are indicating their sensitivity towards the issue. The Beijing government recently launched a 165-million-euro project to have its city smog-free before 2017. "They realise this is part of their progress as a city and as a society”, Roosegaarde says. "They are intrigued with our creative approach. The profit we make from the sale of the Smog Diamonds will be used to finance the other related events." The first smog-free park in Beijing will be the cleanest park in the city, even if it only measures 40-by-40 metres. "This is indeed not the solution for smog," Roosegaarde notes, "but it is an incentive to experience the future and to work together to be part of the solution, not part of the problem."
The Smog Project uses patented ion technology to create large holes of clean air in a safe and energy-friendly way. Roosegaarde is working with a team of specialists including ENS Europe and Bob Ursem, who are experts in Nano air purifiers. Technology combined with social issues and poetic ideas is Roosegaarde's personal style and what he calls ‘techno poetry’, a synthesis of imagination and innovation, ideology, and technology with which to create a more sustainable world. Not by chance, the Smog Project was announced on the 1st of June during International Children's Day: a way to emphasise Roosegaarde's vision and his wish for the future: "Let the children take a deep breath in our new shared world!" ‹
Smog Ring prototype.
Smog Project campaign image.
Daan Roosegaarde holding a smog sample.
Beijing Smog. All images: © Studio Roosegaarde.
This article appeared in DAM45. Order your personal copy.