Urban air pollution is an invisible yet pervasive problem that poses a significant threat to public health and the environment. As cities continue to grow and expand, the issue of air quality becomes more pressing, especially in light of the ongoing climate change crisis. In this context, it is essential to use data-driven approaches to make air pollution visible and understandable, which can inform the design of sustainable and healthy cities.
The research project behind Air/Aire/Aria comes to light as a cross-disciplinary, compelling example of such an approach, which brings together various data sources, scientific institutions, and analytical tools to construct a comprehensive understanding of air pollution in Barcelona. Through this project, a nuanced and dynamic description of air pollution is developed, one that considers different scales, resolutions, and temporal patterns, with the utter outcome of informing policy and urban planning decisions.
In the face of this invisible phenomenon at the urban scale, it has been necessary to use several descriptions of this pollution, constructed from data, through which it can be made visible and understood how it is distributed over space and time. The project cross-cuts a large corpus of information (from multiple research centers and other institutions working in this field from various scientific disciplines) that allows for the construction of a description of the phenomenon at different scales, resolutions, and temporal intervals.
This is the case of CALIOPE-Urban, an operational system for forecasting air quality created by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, the predictive model of the company LOBELIA EARTH, the Generalitat de Catalunya, or the passive dosimeters of the IDAEA-CSIC and impact studies on health from the ISGlobal institute and the Public Health Agency of the Barcelona City Council. The resulting maps also include conventional and satellite open data, as well as collective gathered data from citizen science research initiatives in Barcelona.
The cartographic research has a transmedia output: an exhibition at the Venice Biennale 2023, a digital storytelling (website) and a special number of ‘Quaderns d’Arquitura i Urbanisme’.