Air Brain

[Image: Bel-Air by Mathieu Lehanneur].

These air filters, by Mathieu Lehanneur, seem so hilariously inefficient and bizarre to me, but hey – I love the idea. They turn plants into air filtration machines – miniature ecosystems put to work. Somewhere between a terrarium and biotechnology.
The designer himself describes the filter as “a vegetal brain enclosed in an aluminium and Pyrex cranial box.” That “brain” then cleans the air in your house for you.

[Image: Bel-Air by Mathieu Lehanneur].

More specifically, Lehanneur’s Bel-Air system “is a mini mobile greenhouse” that “continuously inhales” air into an enclosed system of “three natural filters (the plant leaves, its roots, and a humid bath).”
The air is then released again, “purified.”

This patented principal has two advantages: Bel-Air is to the American and Asiatic common filter appliances what Dyson is to regular vacuum cleaners. Here, the noxious particles are captured, and transformed inside the system. No more filters to change, and no more clogs.

Lehanneur was at least partially inspired by NASA’s old research into space gardens, wherein living plants were to be installed on spaceships in order to filter, clean, and continually recirculate the exhaled breath of astronauts.
As such, this project reminds me of the oxygen garden from Danny Boyle’s film Sunshine.

[Images: The Oxygen Garden from Sunshine, courtesy of DNA Films].

There we see a whole room – full of plants, circular fans, UV lights, and timed irrigation tanks (the Earth in miniature, technologically replaced) – built aboard the film’s main spacecraft, forming “a natural, unmechanical way of replenishing [the ship’s] oxygen supplies.”
All houses should be greenhouses. Imagine going to work in a place like that – in an oxygen garden – bringing the tropics to an exurban office park near you. Creeper vines, and Pyrex-shelled ferns, and huge corridors lined with orange trees – groves and orchards spiraling above you up stairways and halls. The sheer terrestrial weirdness of flowering species.
What is it about plantlife that seems so inherently sci-fi?

(For the Bel-Air’s complete press release, see Dezeen).

8 thoughts on “Air Brain”

  1. If plant life seems inherently sci-fi, then it’s time for you to grow a garden, Mr. BLDGBLOG.

    Still… It’s clever the way the Bel-Air dude equates plant life with upscale vacuum cleaners. This isn’t sci-fi plant life, it’s corporatist branded plant life. The next step is Monsanto creating a new form of genetically-enhanced fern with four times the surface area for maximum filtration. Rather than open a window for fresh air, we’d prefer to muck around with DNA.

  2. Wouldn’t just having the house plants without the dome be more effective? Unless the dome increases the rate the plants filter the air, which I doubt. Looks cool though.

  3. I really hope they don’t, frankly. I HATE plants – it’s not quite a phobia, but they make me feel sick to look at them, worse to touch them. Can’t stand having them behind me, either, freaks me out.

  4. I’m seconding Homer here. Plant life =/= sci-fi.

    I have to say I do like the design of the “plant brain”. But as a notorious houseplant killer, I think I’d better stick to my window boxes.

  5. Plants have something profoundly scary about them.

    Maybe it’s because plants have both permanence and transparency. They are so immobile and quiet that they never remind us that they are alive at all, and we, of course, take them for granted. We see through them. They are so ubiquitous and anonymous that we treat them like strangers, passerby. On some level, this constant and seemingly endless presence is frightening; it lulls us into a false feeling of security, makes us smug in our imaginary knowledge of our coniferous colleagues. Of course, we have no such knowledge: we ignore trees and other plants completely, even if we claim to love them. They are our constant counterparts, but they are on a completely different trip than us, existing on an almost evolutionary time scale. What’s more frightening than something you always considered to be reliably benign, wrapping a slowly tightening branch around your neck?

    People who are intrigued by the sci-fi or horror allure of plants should read Algernon Blackwood’s story, “The Man Whom The Trees Loved.” It gives the trees a hint of malice and all of a sudden you have to look twice at the elm in the backyard: is it closer than it was yesterday?

  6. OK, whatever can it mean that Geoff thinks plants are sci-fi-ish, elliot hates plants and Claire is worried they might be out to wrap their slowly tightening branches around our necks?

    I have never, ever spoken to anyone with a plant phobia before. What a mind-boggling bit of BLDGBLOG reader sociology!

    Geoff, I think this may require wider investigation on your part. For my part, I am simply flabbergasted.

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