Air pollution is sometimes called the “invisible killer”. Whereas in the past, smoke from factory or incinerator chimneys was a fairly reliable indication of the presence and location of toxic air, today air pollution is mostly imperceptible to the naked eye. On the contrary, a sunny day with blue skies is a condition often associated with high pollution.
Yet air pollution is omnipresent in our cities. Government institutions and universities have long been working to measure and map it. More recently, local projects and initiatives have also enabled citizens to analyse and learn more about this complex phenomenon. But too often, the data remain in libraries or laboratories and are, at best, disseminated on the internet. Where it is available, it remains incomprehensible to the uninitiated. Once again, air pollution remains in the ether, invisible.
The Canari project aims precisely at revealing air pollution.
In the past, in coal mines, canaries were carried away as a signal, alerting miners when the air became unbreathable. Seeing these birds choke (often due to too high a concentration of carbon monoxide), miners could escape before it was too late. Similarly, the Canari Project wants to raise awareness of air pollution by turning toxicity data into light signals. Using the coal mine analogy also means associating the past with the present, the mine with air pollution, faith in industrial progress and the damage it has caused.
Canari makes air pollution visible, by making the reading of data related to pollution instinctive through the light patterns that a lamp displays, their speed, and their amplitude. The objective is not only to give information to the citizens but rather to sound the alarm and alert them to the need to act at that moment, at that place.
In this spirit, the Canari project joins the movement of citizens, associations and researchers who mobilised in recent years to demand cleaner air. By raising awareness of the geography and scale of the problem, we hope to encourage community involvement and action towards a more sustainable future and put pressure on decision-makers for rapid improvements in this area.
This prototype lamp is part of a longer trajectory on air quality representation supported by Trakk through its edutainment programme that brings together academics, designers and local businesses around a science-related theme. This prototype is the result of a collaboration between academics (Nicola Da Schio and Tarek Barakat), a designer (Guillaume Slizewicz), a creative technologist (Martin Pirson) supported by the Trakk team (Marine Warzée, Laura Latour, Nathalie Cimino).