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New York, NY | Rome, IT


Indoor City

In an era of rapid climate change, cities must advocate for environments that mediate rather than separate themselves from weather, transforming it into new kinds of thermally and socially active spaces. These spaces integrate opposite scales of the built environment—urban with interiors. Resolute borders between exterior and interior recede. A new kind of city emerges: the Indoor City.

Part of the 2017 Cinque Mostre exhibition of work by current Rome Prize Fellows, Indoor City takes the form of a forty foot long table at the American Academy in Rome. The immersive experience of Indoor City is the result of a cross-disciplinary effort— between an architecture practice, a climate scientist, a composer, a historian and two writers. 

MODU collaborated with climate scientist Christoph Meinrenken to make visible the relationship between the built environment and the carbon emissions resulting from its construction. More division between urban and interior environments produces more carbon dioxide. Ice made from carbon and water represents this climate relationship directly on the model. As the carbon leaves its traces, the Indoor City evolves during the six weeks of the exhibition, transforming over time as more carbon is emitted.

Defined by spontaneous social dynamics spurred by thermodynamic flows, the Indoor City activates thermodynamic surfaces enable new potentials of sociability. The city varies the density of elements that mutates architecture and the environment, creating urban and interior micro-climates for gathering. The five elements are: Outdoor Rooms that include outdoor courtyards with interior atmospheres; Air Corridors that serve as “lungs” to ventilate natural air from deep inside a building; Walls of Air, or air curtains that invisibly separate spaces with different air requirements; Roof Ponds that retain rainwater for irrigation and grey water systems; and Rain Floors in semi-interior rooms where rain falls on floors that shed water imperceptibly.

MODU’s collaboration with composer Jonathan Berger creates a sound installation from readings by medieval scholar Hussein Fancy, and writers Jack Livings and Matthew Null. Together, they evoke the voices and sounds of the Indoor City. The words of each writer slowly degrades into sounds of the environment—water falling, ice breaking, and wind moving. 

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Status: Built
Location: Rome, IT
Firm Role: Director
Additional Credits: Rachely Rotem (Director, MODU), Jonathan Berger (Composer), Hussein Fancy (Historian), Jack Livings (Writer), Christoph Meinrenken (Climate Scientist), Matthew Null (Writer)