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MirrorMirror: A twist on traditional street festival tents

MirrorMirror at the IDEAS CITY street festival in New York City this May. Photo: Benoit Pailley


Published June 19, 2014

Festival tents are typically dull, with plain white canopies that do little to reflect the playful emotions such events are meant to evoke.

So to put a twist on these humdrum shelters, UB architecture faculty members Stephanie Davidson and Georg Rafailidis designed MirrorMirror, an easily transportable temporary outdoor structure that holds surprises for anyone who walks by or beneath it.  

The project’s main attraction is a 45-degree-angled gable roof made from sheets of Mylar foil that are stretched over foam-and-aluminum frames to form glassless, double-sided mirrors.

The effect is surreal.

Fairgoers underneath the tent can look up and watch their doubles strolling along in the mirror world. Observers outside the tent can see reflections of trees, the city skyline and slices of sky, with clouds floating across the mirrored roof.

MirrorMirror was the winner of a competition that Storefront for Art and Architecture, the New Museum and Architizer held this spring to produce visually compelling, prefabricated tents that create new ways for people to gather and engage in urban activities.

“Our structure is very simple, but it relates to you through the mirror effect. You’re seeing something which appears to be there, but is not there, so it has this dream-like quality,” says Rafailidis, assistant professor of architecture.

“Our work focuses on creating structures or buildings that relate to people, independent of how or where the structure is being used,” says Davidson, clinical assistant professor of architecture. “MirrorMirror amplifies the activity of the city, no matter what the setting is.”

MirrorMirror includes nine structural units consisting of a hinged, mirrored roof that rests atop a base of steel posts. These units can be positioned side by side to form a continuous, 90-foot-long tent.

The project was designed and built in Buffalo by the UB faculty members’ architecture practice, Davidson Rafailidis. It then was shipped to New York City, where it sheltered booths and crowds on May 4 at the IDEAS CITY 2013 festival, which explored the future of cities with the belief that art and culture are essential to the vitality of urban centers.

UB architect Georg Rafailidis talks about MirrorMirror.

More Photos

The photos in this gallery show MirrorMirror at the IDEAS CITY street festival in New York City, where it was displayed in two locations: on a busy sidewalk and beneath trees in a park.


Oh, great. Just great. And do you supply a team to pick up the dead birds who crash into these? It's truly astonishing that today's new architects do not consider or even recognize the harm they cause to wildlife, especially birds, with stupid ideas like this!

Sage Kadow