The design team at MODU, in collaboration with Ho-Yan Cheung of Arup, have created an urban public space for the 5th China International Architecture Biennial. Their design pays homage to Beijing’s iconic Olympic Park, while drawing attention to environmental issues in the country’s densely populated capital. The biennial committee has also commissioned designs from leading international architects such as Wang Shu, Zaha Hadid, and Mohsen Mostafavi.
The dual-purpose structure not only creates a unique civic space, but also acts as a barometer for the air quality in Beijing. This “room in the city” concept does not attempt to separate people from polluted outdoor air and filtered indoor air by means of physical boundaries. Instead, the structure highlights the air pollution issue through the use of punctured openings in the walls and ceiling panels, as well as a large elliptical roof which frames the Olympic Observation Tower. On clear days, the tower can be seen perfectly through the roof frame, but on days when the pollution creates a dense grey fog, the landmark virtually disappears from sight.
The outdoor room is made from recycled materials and, according to its designers, represents a new era of socially responsive design. At the end of November, the structure will be installed in six other cities in China.