MirrorMirror: A twist on traditional street festival tents

A small tent with a mirrored roof reflecting blue sky and the limbs of trees.

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

Buffalo architects’ mirrored canopy reflects the sky and street, winning an international contest that asked designers to reimagine temporary outdoor structures

Release Date: June 10, 2013 This content is archived.


The photos below 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.

people standing underneath a mirrored ceiling.

Credit: Benoit Pailley

a mirrored roof, as seen from above.

Credit: Georg Rafailidis

A scene inside a mirrored ceiling showing people standing and walking underneath the ceiling.

Credit: Georg Rafailidis

BUFFALO, N.Y. — 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, University at Buffalo 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, which 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,” said Rafailidis, an assistant professor of architecture at UB.

“Our work focuses on creating structures or buildings that relate to people, independent of how or where the structure is being used,” said Davidson, a clinical assistant professor of architecture at UB. “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 was then shipped to New York City where it sheltered booths and crowds on May 4 at the IDEAS CITY 2013 festival, which explores the future of cities with the belief that art and culture are essential to the vitality of urban centers.

For more photos: Contact Charlotte Hsu at chsu22@buffalo.edu or 716-645-4655.

Georg Rafailidis, assistant professor of architecture at UB and principal at Davidson Rafailidis, discusses MirrorMirror. The video shows UB students testing the assembly of MirrorMirror at the Essex Art Center in Buffalo.

Media Contact Information

Charlotte Hsu is a former staff writer in University Communications. To contact UB's media relations staff, email ub-news@buffalo.edu or visit our list of current university media contacts.