Without even setting foot in Beijing, you’ve probably already heard numerous horror stories about the city's air pollution. To highlight just how bad the all-enveloping smog can be, architecture firm MODU has designed the Outdoor Room project, an engaging public space that doubles as a barometer for Beijing's air quality. Installed in Beijing's Olympic Park for the 5th China International Architecture Biennial, the sculptural pavilion shows how dense smog can distort views and create illusions of a disappearing city.
Constructed of glossy translucent fabric panels, the 5,000 square-foot Outdoor Room captures the change of light and color as polluted air settles on the city. On a clear, sunny day, the bone-white pavilion offers clear views of the Olympic Observation Tower from an elliptical roof opening. As air pollution envelops the city, however, the pavilion takes on the colors of the gray and beige-colored smog while the view of the once-clear landmarks slowly disappears. The fabric panels, which were created from recycled Olympic Park exposition tents, are carefully angled to reflect a wide range in colors dependent on the vantage point within the pavilion.
The vanishing act of Beijing’s skyline is the key feature of the pavilion’s “room in the city” design concept. By framing the ever-changing views through openings in the wall and ceiling panels, the installation helps to focus attention on the impact of Beijing’s air quality on the environment. Outdoor Room, which made its first debut at Beijing’s Olympic Park, will be exhibited in six other Chinese cities after the end of November.