Big city lights: Call the windows

Source: the popular magazine “Membrane”

Interactive media façade of the SEGD A person talking on the phone is probably “talking” to the building where he stays...
Photo credit: Electroland

“Concrete jungles”, psychologists say, are not the best habitat for mankind from the point of view of visual imagery. Numerous architects and designers struggle to add a “lively” character and even ability to some “interaction” to city architecture.

A team of designers from Los Angeles - Electroland are doing just that. One of its projects - R-G-B was implemented three years ago. In 2004, for this project Electroland was awarded by the Society for Environmental Graphic Design - SEGD. It’s worthwhile looking at what those Californians have done.

To clarify, SEGD is a non-commercial international organization based in Washington. SEGD promotes and popularizes projects in the area of city architecture, graphic design, interior decoration, landscape and industrial architecture. The Association with over thousand members is interested in developing design culture and in non-traditional innovations in creating new city environment, especially already implemented projects.

In general, SEGD does the same as Electroland. It is promoting ideas capable of raising the mood of “cement jungle dwellers”. We all mostly live among nondescript buildings, roads, tunnels. Psychologically, inhabitants of modern cities are constantly depressed by monotony of environment.

Back to R-G-B project. To see it we need to get to Los Angeles, specifically to the Southern California Institute of Architecture.

Media façade of the Southern California Institute of Architecture Inside of the Southern California Institute of Architecture
This is not a toy train. This is a building of the Southern California Institute of Architecture.
Photo credit: Electroland
Changing colors in windows can be seen both inside and outside
Photo credit: Electroland

This building is very much unlike others. It is only one storey high - but is very long, over 180 meters. The top edge of the building is taken by 81 windows. These are the windows that Electroland turned into lively show. Semi-transparent colored inserts with back light can be seen both inside and outside of the building.

The point is that the colors and patterns on the windows depend on telephone calls made on both sides: by people inside and passers-by. Dialing numbers on mobile phones causes various color effects: colors start to shift, change, light up and down, behave in unpredictable but harmonic way.

Some people even call from quite distant places and use the twinkling windows as a code message to their friends inside the institute building. On the one hand – this is simply a game. Easy game to play. But is is also an attempt to answer a difficult question: Are we able to communicate with artificial environment, feel its feedback, perceive it as live and warm, rather than lifeless and cold?

Mobile phones as triggering devices for this rainbow effect were selected only because they are quite common. The building seems to invite everyone who passes by and who stays inside to enter into a “conversation”. This year Electroland continued its advance against dull, grey and monotonous atmosphere of our cities.

Two new projects continue the same topic of interaction with the city environment and feedback to people’s actions from the surrounding architecture. Thus, in 2005, three enclosed passages shall be commissioned in the Fort Lauderdale International Airport. The floors in these shall be turned into giant LED screens with sensor surface.

LED media floor of Fort Lauderdale Airport LED media floor of Fort Lauderdale Airport
Passengers inside Fort Lauderdale Airport are actively “lighted up”
Photo credit: Electroland
Interactive paths shall be able to illuminate casual and erratic connections between people
Photo credit: Electroland

Running lights shall follow every person going by. The floor will react to walking feet and create various light and color effects. People will definitely smile when walking along these corridors. And smiles can light up our lives in the same way as LED screens light up our city streets. Probably, with time there will be more and more places like this.

To be continued...