Can a Bubble Protect Beijing?

March 5, 2014


There was a silly movie called Bubble Boy that was released in 2001. It was about a boy who did not have an immune system so he lived his life in a bubble. Can places adapt this same bubble-like existence to create a safe, sterile environment?

What does this have to do with today’s world? Is this a fantasy future where a city is enclosed? Can this really solve the problems of the environment that our society has created?

Well a project by ORPROJECT entitled Bubbles may be the closest answer that a city can adapt to giving its residents a safe ‘outdoor’ experience in today’s polluted climates.

ORPROJECT, a London based architectural firm, (ORPROJECT’s other works will be discussed in another article) has developed beautiful, nature inspired designs in these four categories:

  • Installations
  • Buildings
  • Interiors
  • Explorations


The project Bubbles is no different. It was developed to enclose a park within a city. It is a botanical garden where the air is clean, the temperature and humidity are controlled, the heat comes from a ground source exchange and the electricity is provided from solar cells in the structural covering.


The covering is a transparent surface that can be used for more than botanical gardens. It can be used to cover playgrounds, school yards, atriums of buildings or shopping malls and gardens of apartment complexes. The covering simulates veins in leaves or butterflies.


This kind of space is a tourist attraction and cities across the world could use the help of getting people to continue to visit. Places that are struggling because of environmental conditions such as Beijing, Shanghai and Moscow are in desperate need of a solution.

These three cities ranked at the bottom of a recent report on the environmental conditions and living conditions of more than 40 cities across the globe. The report was released in February of 2014 by Shanghai Academy of Social Services.

The six indexes that were used to evaluate the cities were:

  1. Environmental conditions
  2. Social tolerance
  3. Market stability and attraction for businesses
  4. Economics
  5. Governance
  6. Cultural innovation

Some of the top cities were Stockholm, Vienna and Zurich, whereas, both Shanghai and Beijing ranked high in the business categories but very low in livable conditions. Beijing was even stated as, “Almost unfavorable for human living.”

Could projects like Bubbles from ORPROJECT be the answer to help struggling cities provide better living spaces and tourist attractions to visit? Yes, but is it the answer to cities growing air-quality issues?

Bubbles will be a beautiful attribute to any city but perhaps, like Bubble Boy living entirely in a bubble, the answer to solving the outside issues before confining ourselves to a safe, secluded existence there is a better overall solution.  Bubbles is a neat space for visits but not a place on the globe.

Resources: Wikipedia, ORPROJECT, China Daily and SSAP China



Jennifer Shockley

Jennifer is originally from Colorado and has recently moved back from Michigan. She is finishing up her Master’s degree in Architecture. She is currently focusing on urban planning and sustainable design and hopes to gain employment at a design firm specializing in these areas. Jennifer also has writing experience serving as an editor for her school newspaper and college magazine. Jennifer has two cats named Prada and Dior-aptly named after her shoe obsession. You can follow Jennifer on twitter @jenshock81.