Soft City


Pavilion   -   Forum   -   Exchange

章鱼亭     -    论坛     -     活动

Baitasi, Beijing 
23 Sept - 7 Oct 2016
2016年9月23日 - 10月7日

About Soft City


Beijing is both hard and soft. It is marked by extensive physical infrastructure - ring roads, mega blocks, and institutional edifices, and yet it also supports a host of informal, nomadic, spontaneous systems. These include everything from mobile food carts, Weixin payment nodes, and migrant practices, to the atmospherics of air pollution and data collection. Nowhere is this more evident than in hutong areas such as Baitasi, where complex entanglements of historic infrastructure, social and cultural networks, and mobile technologies overlap with unexpected, often innovative results.



Drawing on contributors from a wide range of disciplines, the Soft City project will explore how these various systems and practices can be mobilized to address the significant challenges and anxieties facing the contemporary city.


Soft City will engage the public through a series of events and installations in the Baitasi neighbourhood during the Beijing Design Week. These will include: the Soft City Forum, a roundtable discussion exploring aspects of soft design in the city; the Soft City Exchange, a series of workshops, performances, community events, and a web presence, exploring new systems of knowledge and sharing; and the Octopus Pavilion, an interactive, inflatable structure, that will serve as the site of the forum and workshops, as well as a playful space for the visitors and residents of the neighbourhood.



Soft City Forum


Soft Design On a City Scale
Sept 28
13:00 - 17:30

The forum will bring together designers, artists, activists, IT-developers, scientists, anthropologists, local residents and change agents, to discuss the future of soft practices in Baitasi, Beijing, and cities throughout the world. These discussions will be in a round table format over the course of one day, and will be divided into two key topics:


Soft Space



In today’s cities, rampant housing prices coexist with empty office towers and new roads are built alongside defunct infrastructure. Spatial speculation takes place in the financial sector as well as among activists, artists and communities. This panel will present different approaches to space - public or private, indoor or outdoor - that challenge notions of ownership, authenticity and location.


Soft Systems



Infrastructure, both hard and soft, is increasingly inscribed into the planet, making new and uncertain affiliations with social, ecological and technological systems. This panel will consider the “softening” of infrastructure, exploring the manner in which it is transforming the experience of the city, and its potential to be mobilized to achieve a more flexible, equitable, and resilient urban fabric.


The Global School
Baitasi Old Market
11 Gongmenkou Dong Cha



Two multidisciplinary panels with speakers from China and abroad

Octopus Pavilion


The Octopus Pavilion provides an inviting, interactive open-air public space at the heart of the Baitasi neighbourhood and at the centre of the Beijing Design Week activities. This pavilion explores the concept of Soft City as embodied in an architectural canopy system, and is inspired by the dynamic, adaptive, and highly expressive characteristics of the octopus.



Octopuses, a relative of the mollusks, are soft in a literal sense they have no bones and can squeeze through openings far smaller than their body. And yet this softness goes beyond their physical pliability, encompassing an adaptive paradigm that integrates intelligence, behaviour, 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 behaviours, from camouflage, mimicry, misdirection, to mesmerization - the stratagem of a magician.

章鱼,软体动物的近亲,直官上的软——它们没有骨头,可以穿过远比自身小很多的孔洞。然而这种“柔软”超越了它们自身的柔韧可能性,为模仿而集成的智能、行为和形态的自适应模式,。章鱼拥有与猫一样多的神经元,但 ⅔ 分布在其腕足中。神经元与感知器官和肌肉细胞直接集群,允许对吸盘关节、皮肤颜色和纹理的分布式高度控制。章鱼利用这种“智能皮肤”,进行各种类型的适应性行为,从伪装、模仿、误导到催眠-魔术师的计法。


Using the analogy of an octopus, the pavilion highlights the characteristics of soft systems and intelligent skin. The pavilion will be made of an array of pneumatic cells that can inflate and deflate as well as glow with coloured light in response to activity in the site. Each cell will have its own sensors, microcontroller, fan and LED, allowing it to react independently, and yet, though 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 and mapping the unfolding events in the site. In this way, the pavilion will become the heart of Baitasi measuring the pulse of the neighbourhood.

以章鱼作为拟态灵感,临时展亭突出了软系统和智能皮肤的特点。展亭将由数组可以膨胀缩小、对现场活动做出响应并变换色彩灯光的充气单元阵列构成。每个单元都有单独的传感器、微控制器、排风扇和 LED 灯,允许其作出独立的反应,与此同时,彼此链接的细胞单元因其轻盈的材料特性,又会协同在一起实现整体的动态效果。临时展亭感应着活动和声音的变化,对现场开展的活动作出反馈的同时也呈现出一幅动态地图。它就像是“白塔寺的心脏”,与邻近社区的“脉搏”动态同步。

Check out the Soft Sentience blog for the Octopus Pavilion design process photos, videos and more!


Soft Exchange




A series of workshops one-day workshops with artists and designers, exploring various aspects of the soft design.



Performances and Events


A series of events will be scheduled during Beijing Design Week, including informal socials, interactive performances, and screens of relevant movies, documentaries, or lectures.


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