Breathing lungs for Delhi: Aũra towers and drones by Studio Symbiosis

Smoke Scream! STIR selects design projects, people and practices that aim to kill the smoke with smart innovation.

by Meghna Mehta Published on : Dec 10, 2019

It’s not the weather that we check before stepping out these days – it is the AQI (Air Quality Index). Clean, non-polluted air has now become a challenge in many countries across the world - some cities in China, Mexico and India have already been declared ‘hazardous’ to live in. According to WHO (World Health Organization) guidelines, the residents of India's capital Delhi are breathing about 25 times more toxic air than the permissible limit as per November 2019 reports. This further implies that people’s lives may be reduced by around 17 years than expected. In such grave times, Britta Knobel Gupta and Amit Gupta of Studio Symbiosis have turned to design to look for solutions.

  • Data analysis of pollution in Delhi  | Aura | Studio Symbiosis | STIRworld
    Data analysis of pollution in Delhi Image Credit: Courtesy of India Today
  • Direction of air flow in Delhi | Aura | Studio Symbiosis | STIRworld
    Direction of air flow in Delhi Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Symbiosis

Aũra is a research and design proposal that attempts at technological solutions to create a safer environment to live in. Residents of Delhi themselves, the architects explain the intention of why they decided to take the project up, “Everyone who can afford home air purifiers is buying one, but why is clean air becoming a luxury and why is it only accessible to limited people?” A non-profit study by Studio Symbiosis thus brings forth multitude of solutions to create a comprehensive strategy to tackle and rectify this imminent threat.

The 60 meters high Aura Hive towers in the periphery of the city | Aura | Studio Symbiosis | STIRworld
The 60 meters high Aura Hive towers in the periphery of the city Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Symbiosis

The project, Aũra, which literally means ‘breath’ in Greek and Latin, has been a research by the firm to design cleaning devices on principles of aerodynamics and create forms that lets in polluted air and throws out clean air. The designs propagate maximum surface area and increased wind speed for a robust and efficient performance.

Aũra Hive and Aũra Hotspot

The large-scale devices of this project have been designed as cleaning towers namely; ‘Aũra Hive’ and ‘Aũra Hotspot’ at 60 m and 18 m high respectively, which intake air from 360 degrees from the bottom and exit from the top.

The tower Aũra Hive is an attempt at stopping the external pollution entering the city of Delhi, by fortifying the city through a series of 60-meter tall air towers placed in a ring along the city border. This ensures in negating the pollution penetrating the city through this ring of clean air.

  • Aura Hive towers on the outskirts of Delhi city | Aura | Studio Symbiosis | STIRworld
    Aura Hive towers on the outskirts of Delhi Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Symbiosis
  • Outer layer of Delhi pollution | Aura | Studio Symbiosis | STIRworld
    Outer layer of Delhi pollution Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Symbiosis

A secondary system that intends to aide the larger network is that of the Aũra Hotspot towers, designed to be grafted within the city. These towers, designed at a height of 18 metres, create a grid that ensures clean air in the interiors. These hotspots are effective even when the wind speed drops and the pollution level increases. “By placing these Aũra Hotspots, we can ensure healthy air throughout the city. These towers have a smaller range of 1 sq km and are highly effective in cleaning the air we breathe during days with low wind speeds and high pollution levels. Hotspots are for each neighbourhood where residents can enjoy clean air in the evenings or on the weekend in close proximity,” says Amit Gupta.

Aura Hotspot towers - 18 m high in the interior of the city of Delhi | Aura | Studio Symbiosis | STIRworld
Aura Hotspot towers – 18 m high in the interior of the city of Delhi Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Symbiosis

The towers have two main chambers; one to increase the relative velocity of the air and the other to clean the air before sending it out at great speed and throw. The section of the Aũra Towers further creates a compression and acceleration of intake wind, thereby increasing wind velocity within. The clean, colder air exits from the top, enabling a greater throw into the atmosphere to travel larger distances. While an average adult inhales around 16 cubic metre of air over the course of an eight-hour working day, these towers are able to purify 30 million cubic metre of air each day. With its capacity to clean 1,115,000 cubic metre per hour, one tower can cater to half a million people.

Process of form development for the Aura towers | Aura | Studio Symbiosis | STIRworld
Process of form development for the Aura towers Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Symbiosis

Simulation studies gave rise to an elliptical geometry for the towers, to give minimum resistance and maximum surface area, the same form used for the wings of an aircraft. The twisted design channels the wind along the surface of the tower in the Z direction, thereby increasing the amount of air that comes in. Due to the difference in temperatures and pressures between the air that comes in and goes out, a loop is created around the towers pulling warm air towards the towers.

Schematic section of the Aura towers | Aura | Studio Symbiosis | STIRworld
Schematic section of the Aura towers Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Symbiosis

The triangulated component in the design of the towers ensures ease of execution. Each component is tapered in to aid wind compression to increase the air flow. Green planters have been provided on the surface of the cleaning tower to produce more oxygen with a system of integrated drip irrigation.

Aũra Velocity and Aũra Falcon

The other two systems look at creating a network of smaller objects moving through the city of Delhi. “Given that we don’t want to play with nature and generate artificial wind, we designed a simple attachment on top of cars as a solution. Based on the computational fluid analysis we conducted, Aũra Velocity looks at the aerodynamics of a car to ensure that part of the problem becomes a part of the solution. The more these cars move in the city, the more they clean the city. It is a design of inclusion, rather exclusion, where these cars will themselves act as mobile micro air purifiers,” says Britta Nobel Gupta. Aũra Velocity can be an easy installation on the roof of the car that not only purifies the air that the car emits, but also the air around it while it’s moving or stationary.

  • Aura Velocity attached to the car rooftop | Aura | Studio Symbiosis | STIRworld
    Aura Velocity attached to the car rooftop Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Symbiosis
  • Air flow in the Aura Velocity | Aura | Studio Symbiosis | STIRworld
    Air flow in the Aura Velocity Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Symbiosis

The fourth system, Aũra Falcon, is a network of drone air purifiers that could fly through the city of Delhi. “These drones are components nested within the cleaning towers that detach and move around the city guided by live updates of the pollution levels. They double up as CCTV cameras with an added feature of security,” explains Britta.

Aura Falcon drones flying in the city of Delhi | Aura | Studio Symbiosis | STIRworld
Aura Falcon drones flying in the city of Delhi Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Symbiosis

This defensive and preventive network of various kinds of Aũras in the neighbourhood looks at creating a clean future for the city of Delhi that could be further extended to various other cities around the globe.

Project Details

Architects: Studio Symbiosis Architects
Design: Amit Gupta and Britta Knobel Gupta
Team: Amit Agrawal, Kartik Misra, Sonal Dongre Jain, Dewesh Agrawal, Chinmay Chowdhary, Mandeep Chaudhary, Pallav Chaudhary, Keshav Sapra

Read more from the series:

The Biomaterial Revolution: Green Charcoal by Shreyas More and Meenal Sutaria
Designing breathable cities: Smog Free Project by Daan Roosegaarde
Turning rice straw into resource: : Better Air Now by IKEA
Recycling air pollution into inks: AIR-INK by Graviky Labs
Traditional solutions to air pollution:CoolAnt Coral by Ant Studio

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About Author

Meghna Mehta

Meghna Mehta

An architect by education and a journalist by passion, Mehta pursued a crossroad between her two interests. Having completed an M.Arch from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, she has worked in the field of architectural journalism for over 5 years. Besides content generation for STIR, she continues to teach in architectural schools in Mumbai.

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