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Podcast: Custom Media Architecture Provides Placemaking Opportunity for Iconic Chicago Office Building

Posted April 7, 2020

To reinvigorate Chicago’s 515 North State Street, a Kenzo Tange-designed Class-A office tower, ESI Design created a distinct 23-foot permanent media installation titled Canvas. The resulting intervention served as a media architecture placemaking opportunity for the iconic property, and provided an artful, engaging way to establish a new identity for the building as a creative center.

ESI Design’s Principal, Creative and Head of Media Architecture, Emily Webster, was interviewed by Digital Signage Connection about the media architecture placemaking at 515 North State Street. Emily shared how the custom installation helped capture the imagination of sought-after tenants in the technology, advertising, media and information industries.

To listen to the full podcast, click here.

The digital installation serves as a placemaking opportunity for the client.
The digital installation serves as a placemaking opportunity for the client.

A One-of-a-Kind Digital Work of Art

Canvas, a showstopping piece of media architecture placemaking, welcomes visitors to 515 North State Street’s lobby with familiar footage from around Chicago. This video content, featuring iconic locations like Navy Pier, fades into abstract color patterns using custom software in a calming, natural transition.

The 72 different videos that make up the content for Canvas are layered against each other in a randomized order with transitions that are intentionally meditative and slow. Using five hours of original footage, the layering of baseline content allowed for the creation of over 5,000 unique compositions that play out over the course of the day.

“The custom software algorithm analyzes each video for moving objects,” Emily told DSE. “Moments like a person walking or a car driving become the brushstrokes that create each abstraction within the imagery. As each video collides with the next, new compositions unfold in real time, creating thousands of possibilities in this one-of-a-kind digital artwork.”

Original footage from Chicago is used to create abstract images that resemble traditional artwork.
Original footage from Chicago is used to create abstract images that resemble traditional artwork.

Inspired by the tradition of hanging large-scale paintings in office lobbies, Canvas is composed of LED panels set behind a layer of vinyl to soften and diffuse the light, mimicking the materiality of a painting.

“We wanted to think about Canvas like a traditional piece of artwork — something that lives in the space for a long time and has the qualities of something that you would want to see over and over again,” says Emily.

Beacon Capital Partners increased the building’s tenancy rate by attracting tenants in the advertising, media and technology sectors.
Beacon Capital Partners increased the building’s tenancy rate by attracting tenants in the advertising, media and technology sectors.

Increasing Placemaking and Visibility Through Media Architecture

ESI Design was responsible for assessing the property, then making a design suggestion for the reinvigoration of the site as a whole. By giving attention to the entire property — including new building logos and signage, revamped elevator bays and a refreshed interior palette with a new reception and security desk — the designed experience for 515 North State Street is holistic and cohesive.

Canvas brings new life to the bold, angular architecture of the lobby that previous lacked the kind of warmth and intimacy that attract tenants. Generated from the fabric of Chicago, the content shown on the Canvas is announces 515 North State as a distinctly ‘Chicago’ property. As with all of ESI Design’s media architecture placemaking projects, the design team began by working with the client to determine the desired experience, and then chose the best technology for the job.

“Technology is often a cornerstone of the experiences we create, but it is not the driver. It is a necessary and interesting material in our palette, but it’s not where we start — it’s what we land on,” Emily says.  

Do you want to learn more about using media architecture as placemaking in commercial real estate?

Click here to get in touch with our team.

Michelle Lampariello

Michelle is ESI Design’s Fall 2019 Marketing Intern, and is blogging about the latest happenings at ESI and beyond.

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