One of the biggest things we noticed about the first lockdown was the cleaner air in our towns and cities. With barely any vehicles on the road or planes in the sky, we also heard louder birdsong and enjoyed better weather, attributing much of these benefits to the reduction in air pollution.
But as soon as we were allowed back out, the roads became busy again – highlighting the issue of air quality and forcing many of us to crave for a better world. A new augmented reality sculpture by London-based Studio Above&Below hopes to build on this growing appetite for cleaner air. Called Digital Atmosphere, the piece reacts to a city's air pollution in realtime (usually invisible to the naked eye), and translates it into an evocative visual simulation, visible to the viewer through an AR headset.
It's hoped the experience, which includes a short introductory film giving further depth to the project, will encourage us to call for a sustainable, zero-carbon emissions future for our cities and shared environments.
"The current pandemic has shown that invisible specks of matter impact everyone's lungs, leading to an invisible vulnerability in the longer term," says Daria Jelonek, one of the studio's co-founders. "But through behavioural change, we can stop this invisible killer.
"Even if the air looks clear, it is certain that you will inhale tens of millions of solid and liquid particles, travelling from one side of the planet to the other. These ubiquitous specks of matter are known as aerosols, which are invisible to the eye, however not invisible to our lungs.
"With Digital Atmosphere we are investigating a future in which clear air may be a reality through giving nature a voice. The impact of air pollution on our bodies became especially clear throughout the current Covid-19 pandemic."
The project by the art and design studio is the result of a 12-month research and development commission by Broadway's Near Now Fellowship programme in Nottingham. Discover more at studioaboveandbelow.com.