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Soft City Octopus Pavillion

The Octopus Pavilion provides an inviting, interactive open-air public space at the heart of the Baitasi neighborhood and at the center of the Beijing Design Week activities.

This pavilion explores the concept of Soft City as embodied in an architectural canopy system. It is inspired by the dynamic, adaptive, and highly expressive characteristics of the octopus.

Octopuses, relatives of the mollusks, are soft in a literal sense, because they have no bones and they can squeeze through openings far smaller than their body. This “softness” goes beyond their physical pliability, encompassing an adaptive paradigm that integrates intelligence, behavior, and morphology. Octopuses have the same number of neurons as a cat, and yet ⅔ of these are situated in the legs. Neurons are clustered directly with sensing organs and muscle cells, allowing highly distributed control over sucker articulation, skin coloration and texturing. Octopuses take advantage of this “intelligent skin”, employing it in a wide range of adaptive behaviors, from camouflage, mimicry, misdirection, to mesmerization – “the stratagem of a magician”.

Using the analogy of an octopus, the pavilion highlights the characteristics of soft systems and intelligent skin. The pavilion is made of an array of pneumatic cells that can inflate and deflate as well as glow with colored light in response to activity in the site. Each cell has its own sensors, micro-controller, fan and LEDs, allowing it to react independently.

Through the supple nature of the connecting material, an overall dynamic effect will be achieved. The pavilion will respond to both movement and sound, reacting to them and mapping the unfolding events in the site. In this way, the pavilion becomes the “heart of Baitasi”, measuring the “pulse” of the neighborhood.

Tectonicus, Max Gerthel Studio

Kingdom of the Netherlands; Embassy of Sweden; K1ND (sponsors)

Max Gerthel and Jordan Kanter (curators)

Sept. 23rd – Oct. 7th

Baitasi Projects
Dongxicha Square

Max Gerthel