China is known neither for its environmental consciousness nor for the beauty of its digital media installations. But a new media façade at the Xicui Entertainment Center is a first step toward turning those impressions around.
The GreenPix Zero Energy Media Wall, designed by Simone Giostra & Partners Architects (New York), emits a colorful, abstract glow around the building. The display uses 2,922 color LED light points (comparable to a 24,000-sq.-ft. screen) and China’s first photovoltaic system integrated into a glass curtain wall, harvesting solar energy during the day and using it to generate light from the same power that night, with no supplemental energy source.
Giostra was charged with enlivening the opaque, box-like entertainment center and connecting it with its environs. Giostra also wanted the display to visually respond to and reflect the day’s natural cycles.
GreenPix’s aesthetic was initially inspired, says Giostra, by the flickering light on an ocean’s undulating surface. The team was also interested in the abstract qualities of low-resolution digital screens in contemporary art, and consulted with artists Gerhard Richter and Jim Campbell for inspiration.
Giostra opted to showcase low-resolution imagery both to conserve energy and to provide an art-specific communication form that would contrast starkly with the high-resolution commercial media facades that abound in China and elsewhere.
Giostra’s client and the city realize the importance of this high-profile digital art venue both to emerging Chinese artists and the city itself. So far the wall has displayed art created by Xu Wenkai, Michael Bell Smith, Takeshi Murata, and Varvara Shavrova. An ongoing content program will include site-specific videos, installations, and live performances.
GreenPix may represent the world’s most extensive use of photovoltaic technology for a building façade. With R&D support from German manufacturers Schüco International KG and SunWays AG, Giostra and Arup developed a new technology for laminating photovoltaic cells within the building’s glass curtain wall. PV cells of varying density were placed on the entire building skin, allowing natural light into the interior while reducing heat gain and transforming excess solar radiation into energy for the media wall.
“This project is an excellent example of innovation in technology with compelling content and graphics. Setting aside the amazing engineering that pulled this off, it integrates digital technology into the urban fabric in addition to educating the public about emerging contemporary Chinese artists. It considers both day- and night-time conditions and both are successful.”
Simone Giostra (principal in charge); Joshua DeSousa, Rosario D’Urso (designers)
Arup (lighting designer, façade engineer); Schüco International KG, SunWays AG (solar technology R&D)
Suntech China (solar panel manufacturer), Thorn China (LED manufacturer)