'The Cooling Solution' lands in New York City at the Photoville Festival

Photo by Gaia Squarci. A man rests in front of the Museum of Tomorrow, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, in the Porto Maravilha area of Rio de Janeiro. Brazil. The Museum uses seawater for the heat rejection of its AC systems, allowing for highly efficient energy cooling operations - 84% Humidity, Temperature 26°C

The Cooling Solution goes to New York City in 2024, where it is set in the prestigious context of Photoville, a city-wide open air photography festival which hosts each year selected photographic projects from all over the world.

Photoville is an annual, city-wide open air photography festival in New York City hosting since 2011 a nationwide program of public art exhibitions. Visited last year by more than 1.000.000 persons over 2 weeks across all five boroughs of NYC, the Photoville festival curates and presents in 2024 over 85 free outdoor photo exhibitions. 

The multimedia science communication and outreach project resulting from the collaboration between CMCC and Ca' Foscari University of Venice was selected from over 900 proposals to bring its idea of scientific dissemination for the climate transition to Photoville’s iconic shipping containers in Brooklyn Bridge Park. A one-of-a-kind project, The Cooling Solution combines the economic research of climate economist Enrica De Cian with reportages by Elementsix, blending them with the photographic vision of reporter Gaia Squarci and a sophisticated web of data, graphs, infographics and texts to make visitors understand the close connection between science, climate change and the daily life of common persons in four different countries. Moreover, the exhibition invites visitors to interact with the content proposed to express their direct experience and understanding of the impacts of their own energy consumption on the dynamics of climate change. Thanks to the 32 photographs with captions and the 4 infographics installed at Photoville 2024, The Cooling Solution investigates how people of different socioeconomic backgrounds around the world adapt to high temperatures and humidity. The exhibition combines scientific results with personal stories, offering a visual journey through people’s lived experiences of ineffective and inefficient cooling, hypercooling, heat dumping, vernacular architecture, and cutting-edge cooling technologies in Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Italy. The goal is to use photography’s communicative power to make academic knowledge accessible to the wider public.

The Cooling Solution project examines the phenomenon of the rising AC demand in its various facets, addressing its numerous shortcomings and drawbacks, as well as the reasons for its use, which are often related to the necessity of protecting the most fragile members of society from health hazards. According to the report of the International Energy Agency, 'The Future of Cooling', published in 2018, 10 new AC units will be sold every second for the next 30 years, bringing the number of installed cooling units worldwide to 5.6 billion by 2050

As AC becomes cheaper and more efficient, it may end up being used in places where heat stress could instead be adequately tackled by alternative cooling solutions. As a result, humanity is facing the risk of being trapped in a new, vicious cycle created by consolidated behaviors and urban environments shaped by the ubiquity of AC. It is now clear that the era of energy-intensive material comfort must come to an end. What is perhaps less clear is that sacrificing this way of living doesn’t mean sacrificing thermal comfort, a concept whose parameters are determined not only by climate, but also by habits, culture, and socio-economic dynamics. In the frame of a broader scientific research, Brazil, India and Indonesia were chosen to represent populous, tropical countries whose economies are growing, while Italy serves as a western counterpart. While these countries, however different, are following a similar trend driving them towards a homogenized notion of thermal comfort, The Cooling Solution also examines vernacular architecture, alternative cooling methods, innovation, and dedicated research efforts. We will live on a warmer planet, and AC can and will save lives. However, there is also a great richness in the diversity of cooling methods available that are waiting to be re-discovered, re-visited, and scaled-up. 

The project is the result of a collaboration with the ENERGYA research team led by Enrica De Cian at the Department of Economics at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, THE NEW INSTITUTE Centre for Environmental Humanities at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, CMCC Foundation - Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change, the European Institute on Economics and the Environment, supported by the European Research Council (GA No. 756194) and Fondazione Ca’ Foscari. The exhibition and catalog, curated by the collective of curators Kublaiklan, would not have been possible without the economic research led by Enrica De Cian and her ENERGYA team, the ethnographic research conducted by Antonella Mazzone, the policy research carried out by Marinella Davide, and the photography by Gaia Squarci, all of which were coordinated by Elementsix. In September 2024 the exhibition will also be on show at the Italian Cultural Institute in London.