Conceived as a pair of colour-changing "lungs" connected by two looping cycle tracks, Loop.pH's Vel02 installation has opened as part of the Velo-City Global 2016 cycling conference in Taipei (+ movie).
The London-based studio aims to show the relationship between air quality and mobility by combining a pump track – a type of BMX track that requires users to do no pedalling thanks to a series of humps and turns that combine with a rider's body movement to create a fast cycle loop – with a lighting installation.
"It's about looking at how you can change a public space and deal with a serious public issue like air pollution and create something that's really fun and engaging," Loop.pH co-founder Rachel Wingfield told Dezeen.
"We created this really fun and interactive installation but also this immersive environment that was displaying live air quality data."
Vel02's two looping wooden cycle tracks illuminate with LEDs as riders pass over them, while the large lights at either end – modelled on human lungs and the branching structures of trees – change colour according to the quality of the air around them.
Each "lung" is made from a branching wooden frame and houses LEDs inside the chambers created by the shape.
Fine fibreglass loops arch over each of the chambers, and are designed based on the network of tubes in the human lung. These catch the light generated from the LEDs to help the installation glow at night.
"The light installation on the ends is based on some work we did a few years ago called tree lungs," explained Wingfield. "We were looking at how we can take biological concepts to display changing air quality conditions. So they're based on lungs and looking at how humans breathe."
The studio used a sensor provided by Change London, a group that campaigns to make London a healthier city, to measure six different air pollutants from three gasses and three different particle sizes.
It then translated the live data from the sensor into seven different colours of light, passing from green to a dark red for dangerous levels of pollutants and creating a kind of warning system based on the international standard Air Quality Index.
"We would notice things like a boat passing by on the river and our data would spike. The colours would suddenly go orange," said Wingfield. "I think it's really important to be able to see the immediate impact and then you can adapt your behaviours."
"When there was a big spike and the colours went red, we'd go and look at the data and look around and we started realising you could actually smell something in the air," she added. "It became interesting to look at how you can use these kinds of sensor technologies to retrain our bodies to detect changes in the quality of the air."
Visitors to the installation are provided with a bike to try out the tracks. The studio believes that encouraging residents to take up cycling could help Taiwan tackle its air pollution issues.
The wooden structure, including the two "lung" lights at either end, was designed using a computer in London. The pieces were then fabricated in Taiwan, before being assembled by the studio on site.
It opened on 26 February and will close on 6 March. The cycling tracks will be donated to a local children's project.
The project was commissioned by the Shin Kong Life insurance company, who also introduced the designers to Taiwan's minister of environment.
"He talked about how we could roll out this idea of making these immersive experiences in the city so you can have a much clearer experience of air quality," said Wingfield. "So now we're looking at how we can extend the project all over Taiwan."
Other temporary installations by Loop.pH include an inflatable plastic dome that stood by London's River Thames last year and was pumped full of scented vapour, and an illuminated wiry dome that mimicked the molecular structures of carbon atoms.
Photography is by the designers unless otherwise stated.
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