When you show an unusual project to a developer in New York, they ask: “Have you done this before?” The client in China asked me: “Are you sure it has never been done before?” — Simone Giostra

With a world watching, China flexed its architectural prowess at the Olympics, and recreated Beijing’s skyline. Overshadowed by The Birds Nest and The Watercube, one of the skyline’s exciting new additions is the GreenPix Zero Energy media wall, the largest solar powered LED display in the world.

The 20,000 square feet wall covers the façade of Xicui entertainment center near the “Bird’s Nest”, the central stadium that hosted both the opening and closing ceremonies, and is visible from 3,300 feet. GreenPix is not just one of the great architecture objects that modern Beijing is famous for, but it also applies sustainable technology as it showcases digital media art.

Simone Giostra, whose company Simone Giostra + Partners — along with design and engineering firm Arup — developed the wall, thinks of it as a flower, absorbing solar energy during the day and releasing it at night. The wall has a self-sustaining energy life cycle that no other wall in the world has.

GreenPix uses thousands of solar photovoltaic capture cells on the glass panels covering computer-controlled LEDs in order to power colorful light shows at night.

“We like to work with digital artists,” Giostra said. “They have an understanding of the ultimate goal. It’s not only programming.”

Digital artists participate in developing content for the wall — ranging from video games to micro photography.

Another interesting detail about the wall is its interactivity, which makes it controversial.

Giostra + Partners is negotiating with the government to get the approval for interactive, user-generated content. However, right now the Chinese government approves all content and “they make sure someone is next to the computer,” Giostra said.

“If you think of the context and the time — China, 2008 — this [interactivity] becomes a huge issue.”

GreenPix is a visual reminder of Chinese attempts to make long-term environmental improvements for Beijing.

“You should accept that environmentally friendly system is vulnerable to the context,” Giostra said. “If there is a day with clouded sky or polluted sky, the system would be effected by it, so the screen will be probably lower in intensity or last shorter than expected.”

According to the Greenpeace Olympics Assessment report, issued on August 7th, Beijing did better than Athens in 2004 in greening the Olympic Games. China introduced state-of-the-art energy saving technology in the Olympics venues, released new vehicle emissions standards, and added four new rail lines to the city.

While there are several missed opportunities on how China could improve its environment — failure to use the Games as an opportunity to move towards a zero-waste policy, lack of water-saving technologies, slow improvement of air-quality, and being secretive about their environmental data — Beijing made an effort in trying to shift to more environmentally smart solutions.

Article by Katya Soldak, Producer at ScribeMedia.