By Dr Poppy Lakeman Fraser
Ever wondered what air pollution looks like? Well, normally it’s rather difficult to see, but a talented OPAL participant, Jack Durling, embarked on a challenging project: to raise awareness about the (not-so-visible) environment, through the medium of design.
Jack was a design student at the University of Brighton when he contacted OPAL and lichen expert Pat Wolseley (who was involved in designing the OPAL Air Survey) to get information on how lichens can be used as bio-indicators (as documented in a paper by OPAL in the Environmental Pollution journal).
Since then, he has used this information to develop a project which is inspired by, and makes use of, pollutants and their biological indicators.
His project was selected to be profiled at the renowned New Designers Exhibition for Emerging Design this year. I went along to find out more about his nature-inspired work.
Making my way through the aisles of creative students exhibiting everything from baby support for airline travel to citizen science avatar magnifying glasses, I came across the vibrant stand for the University of Brighton and Jack’s series of ingenious design works.
Jack’s first piece wouldn’t have looked out of place in a fashion show. The Accumulative Coat was a duffel coat which was subtly embellished with a map of Jack’s local neighbourhood in Brighton.
Jack not only used the natural pigment colours in lichens such as Xanthoria to dye this fabric but he walked the streets of Brighton rubbing the coat against walls and trees to pick up particulate matter from pollutants. The result? The fascinating effect pictured on the left.
He is doing this not only to produce an inspiring piece of art work but to raise awareness about environmental issues.
Jack said: “By designing and making in a way that seeks to physically embody and graphically represent where these natural and synthetic substances occur, we can increase awareness and understanding of air pollution.”
Tiles that tell a story
Ever wondered what air pollutants do to your health? Jack's Responsive Tile Mural uses laser-etched wall tiles to raise exactly this question. The idea is that if these tiles were attached to a building, over time carbon particulates exuded by us through cars and industry would accumulate in the grooves that have been carved out.
Over time, this would reveal a huge image of a human brain, lungs and heart. The idea is that passers-by will be informed that particulates can affect their health and as such, may be motivated to do something about air pollution issues.
How you can get involved in monitoring
Want to monitor air pollution in your neighbourhood but don't have Jack's flair for design? Get involved in the OPAL Air Survey and you can find out about local air quality by studying lichens growing in the area.