A sight for sore eyes...

Wednesday 27 Nov 2013

Temporary installation by MODU plays with daily shifts in air-pollution in Beijing

MODU’s Outdoor Room project for the 5th China International Architecture Biennial creates an urban public space that reactivates Beijing's Olympic Park while focusing on the air quality crisis in Beijing. The competition-winning project will be open in Beijing through November 2013 and will be installed in six other cities in China. The structural design of Outdoor Room was developed with Ho-Yan Cheung of Arup.

Outdoor Room serves as an engaging urban public space and a barometer of Beijing’s well-documented air quality levels. Along with the weather report, daily readings of air particulate contaminant have become part of everyday urban life in Beijing. On most days, pollution creates a dense fog that transforms the city with an unsettling palette of colours - from dull grey to off-white and yellow-beige. On the occasional day of better air quality, urban forms suddenly materialise 'out of the fog'. The concept of a city that disappears and reappears is central to the public experience of Outdoor Room.

Inside the pavilion, a large elliptical roof opening provides a visual measure of the air quality. On days of good visibility, the roof void frames clear views of the Olympic Observation Tower and beyond to the National Stadium. On days of poor air quality, the landmarks virtually disappear from sight. The uncanny experience of a city disappearing and reappearing comes into focus from within Outdoor Room and draws attention to the problem of air pollution in Beijing.

The design of Outdoor Room precipitated the concept of the 'room in the city' and its converse, the 'city in the room'. Viewed from the Olympic Park, the 'room in the city' does not attempt to recreate the urban boundaries that separate polluted outdoor air from conditioned and filtered indoor air throughout Beijing. From within the public space, the openings between the fabric panels frame a 'city in the room'. This 'city in the room' offers changing views of the Olympic Park and the air that surrounds it.

The glossy translucent fabric panels both reflect and transmit the colour hue of the polluted air enveloping the city - from blue to grey to yellow. The torque geometry of the fabric panels reflects the colours differently, especially when viewed from different vantage points within Outdoor Room. All of the fabric panels were recycled from nearby exposition tent structures in the Olympic Park, highlighting existing environmental opportunities even in Beijing.

MODU was commended in the 2013 WAN 21 for 21 Award. The team's full submission can be viewed here.

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