“I’ve always been busy creating landscapes of the future”, says Daan Roosegaarde, who sees himself as one of a long line of Dutch landscape artists that paint fascinating cloudscapes. The latest of these landscapes is severely clouded by smog. “A few years ago I was in Beijing and on a beautiful clear day I could spot birds and cars and people from my hotel window high up, whereas later that same week, the sky was fully packed with smog. And not just the sky. The grey goo, with its typical bitter, dark smell was so intense that you couldn’t see across the street. I then realised that this was serious.” Roosegaarde is not a person to sit and stew; he’s known for tackling enormous issues with innovation and creativity.
At seven metres high, the Smog Free Tower is the largest smog vacuum cleaner in the world. “It cleans at the nano level, removing the microscopic particles that are the most harmful to our health, those that penetrate our body and organs. The polluted air is filtered and then returned to the atmosphere.” Effectively, the tower spits out clean air. It does so inside parks, where visitors can come to get away from the smog and breathe clearly for free.” Impressive, indeed, but this giant smog vacuum cleaner must surely consume a massive amount of energy...? “Not at all”, assures Roosegaarde with a smile. “Through the development of our sustainable dance floor, we’ve gained a lot of experience in energy-friendly solutions. The Smog Free Tower cleans 30,000m3 of air per hour without ozone; it runs on green wind energy and utilises no more electricity than a water heater (1400 Watts).”
citizens to find answers to this enormous problem. We want people to become aware of the issue and to be involved in solving it. I think it’s the role of the designer to make the link between the practical and the poetic. Scientific solutions have been around for a while but haven’t been able to connect with the general public. The impact of imagination is important. That’s where creatives come in. With this tower, we have made a place where people can actually smell and feel the difference between polluted air and clean air. This engages them much more than official reports about the danger of smog. Of course it does not solve the whole problem – I’m realistic. But we will certainly create parks with clean air and invite the citizens to actively participate.” The Smog Free Jewellery – rings, studs, crucifixes, etc. – is developed by Studio Roosegaarde as part of the same package. These souvenirs are popular. “We even receive requests from couples who want to be married in smog-free rings!” The Smog Free Tower is being installed in Beijing in September, before moving on to other cities in China. “We are trying to create a movement. As Canadian futurist Marshall McLuhan once said: There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”