In the heart of Warsaw, one of Europe’s most polluted capitals, a new site for children allows them to breathe fresh air with the help of microalgae.
The algae has been placed in glass tubes hung around the wooden structure that houses the toys, as it pulls pollutants and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“There are so many untapped opportunities to harness the bio-intelligence of cities’ natural systems,” says Marco Polito, co-founder of London-based urban development firm Ecological Studio and owner of the Irbabble project.
Poleto calls for “turning buildings into living machines that produce energy, store carbon dioxide and purify the air.”
The choice fell on the Polish capital to embrace this first project because it lacks in particular fresh air. According to data published by the European Environment Agency last month, Warsaw ranks 269th out of 323 cities in terms of air quality.
This classification is based on the average in the last two years of fine particles (less than 2.5 μm in diameter) that are highly harmful to health.
According to the European Environment Agency, air pollution, in large part from coal burning, causes about 50,000 premature deaths a year in Poland, where 38 million people live.
And “Airbabble” is equipped with dozens of glass tubes that contain water containing algae, whose task is to purify the air that is drawn from the base of the tube.
These organisms consume the polluting particles before releasing the pure oxygen from above, forming veritable “bioreactors”.
This wooden facility, covered with a special membrane, is located on the banks of the Wissoa River and adjacent to the Copernican Science Centre.
In the afternoons, a staff member at the center watches children of different ages frolic around the site, jumping on bubbles and swinging on ropes.
“I have a lot of fun,” says Anya, eight, as she jumps.
Her mother, Malgojata Vrona, praises the project, saying, “It’s a good idea, especially in a big city where there is a lot of pollution and smog.”
“Children at least get a chance to breathe fresh air,” she says.
This 42-year-old English teacher who lives in Wroclaw (western Poland) says that many still use coal to heat their homes and that the air quality is already “disastrous”.
“Irbabel” will remain open in Warsaw until November, but it may stabilize at the site in the long term. It is planned to establish facilities of this kind in other cities.