The Olympic Green in Beijing, built for the 2008 summer games, has become one of the city’s top tourist destinations. The expanse features Herzog & De Meuron’s Bird’s Nest and will soon be home to Jean Nouvel’s National Art Museum of China, slated for completion in 2015. In June 2013, the area added another stunning public art installation: artists Jennifer Wen Ma and Zheng Jianwei’s interactive light display Nature and Man in Rhapsody of Light at the Water Cube. 

The work reimagines the cellular skin of the iconic Water Cube building by blending information from social media and the ancient text the I Ching to create an ever-changing light and color display that interprets the collective current state of mind of the nation.

It works like this: Computers analyze and interpret the emotions expressed via emoticons on Chinese social media sites (such as Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) and correlate them with the passage for the day from the ancient text I Ching. An algorithm translates that data into a unique LED color display after dark. These nightly “pictures in light” are “painted” with color theory, light, composition, rhythm, and movement on the sides of the building.

The project’s commissioners hope the work draws more visitors to the Olympic Green—and inspires them to reflect on citizens’ ever-changing emotional state.