Green Wall of China
A Beijing entertainment center’s “narrative skin” is fueled solely by environmental conditions.
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, which is located near the site of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics. 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.
“It performs like an organic system, similar to a tree or flower,” says Simone Giostra, whose work for projects such as the Art Academy in Leipzig, Germany, has focused on architectural skins that respond to their environment and users. “A truly organic system should depend on its own ability to gather resources and, at the same time, it should remain vulnerable to changing environmental conditions.”
With the Xicui commission, 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. Curator and producer Luisa Gui is collaborating with art institutions, galleries, media schools, corporations, collectors, and benefactors to organize an ongoing content program consisting of site-specific videos, installations, and live performances.
Greening up Beijing
GreenPix may represent the world’s most extensive use of photovoltaic technology for a building façade, and is an important step toward sustainable architecture in China.
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.
“Greenpix represents a great advancement for the solar energy industry in China,” says Giostra. “It promotes the uncompromised integration of sustainable technology in new Chinese architecture, responding to the aggressive and unregulated economic development currently undertaken by industry—often at the expense of the environment.”
--By Pat Matson Knapp, segdDESIGN No. 22, 2008
GREENPIX ZERO ENERGY MEDIA WALL
Client: Jingya Corporation
Design: Simone Giostra & Partners Architects
Lighting Designer and Façade Engineers: Arup
Consultants: Schüco International KG, SunWays AG (solar technology R&D), Suntech China (solar panel manufacturer), Thorn China (LED manufacturer)
Photos: ©Simone Giostra & Partners/Arup (daytime images), ©Simone Giostra & Partners/Arup-Ruogo (nighttime images)