Experiment 02



October 19, 2007 - January 6, 2008


News About a Second Atmosphere a novel design exhibition resulting from a collaborative experiment between the designer Mathieu Lehanneur and the Harvard University scientist David Edwards.

Drawing on experimental observations of Nasa scientists, Mathieu Lehanneur and David Edwards have created a new form of air filter that passes dirty air past absorptive surfaces of plants, thereby improving the capacity of plants to absorb noxious gases and particles, and, in a sense, render plants “more intelligent.”  Following the first space flights, Nasa researchers discovered high levels of toxic chemicals in the blood of astronauts. These chemicals were determined to originate in the synthetic materials of the spacecraft, being emitted by these materials as volatile gases. Nasa scientists found that certain kinds of plants could act as natural filters, absorbing – and ultimately metabolizing – gases via their leaves and root systems.

Domestic settings today resemble the spaceships of yesterday – poisoned by dangerous levels of fine particles and toxic gases that derive from plastics, glass, insulating materials, flame retardants and other materials commonly found in modern homes. Each synthetic object emits gases that derive from its manufacturing process.

A wooden table may expire pentachlorophenol related to the use of fungicides, a painted surface the carcinogen trichloroethylene, a plastic chair formaldehyde. Added to these are the innumerable tiny nanoparticles of insoluble organic and inorganic material that circulate in modern environments.

Bel-Air is conceived for domestic use, a kind of living filter that absorbs and metabolizes noxious chemicals and particles from the air that circulates in our homes.

Bel-Air is designed to integrate various plants with natural absorptive properties, such as spider plants. Bel-Air improves on the earlier Nasa design by increasing the capacity of leaves to absorb gases and maintaining clean filter capacity longer through an efficient use of plant water.

The final design optimizes the filtration capacity of leaves, roots, soil and plant water to achieve a first Laboratoire artscience innovation.

Download the press release.



About Mathieu Lehanneur

Mathieu Lehanneur received his graduate diploma from l’ENSCI-les ateliers (2001). His early work focused on the design of medical objects aimed to improve patient compliance to medications. On receiving the ANVAR Scholarship in 2001, Lehanneur founded his own design agency, which specializes in exhibition and industrial design. In 2004 he began to serve as director of Design and Research of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de St-Etienne. In 2006 he received the carte Blanche of VIA and the Grand Prix de la Création of the City of Paris. Lehanneur’s designs appear in the permanent collections of MoMA New York City and MoMA San Francisco.