This is great – a stunning use of fine pitch LED in the ceiling of a seven-level shopping and lifestyle center on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.
The centerpiece of a makeover at 900 North Michigan Shops is a massive, 190-foot-long digital art installation spanning the ceiling of the nearly 30-year-old complex. Visible from all floors, and built in 10 sections, the digital installation mimics a giant skylight that connects the complex’s interior to the exterior sky.
Put together by New York City-based experience design studio ESI Design, the LED canvas uses evocative content filmed at 16K resolution with state-of-the-art cameras, making the illusion of rustling trees and the sky above seem very real.
In another mode, says a feature on the project, the ceiling opens to reveal flocks of 3D-animated birds. The Cedar Waxwing, local to the Chicago area, will gather and disperse, creating mesmerizing, ever-changing patterns, just like in nature. Created by algorithmic rules based on flocking behaviors, the birds will never fly the same way twice. The background sky and sunlight also adapt to the current time of day. By creating the feeling of an outdoor space, the installation captivates audiences, inspiring them to travel upward through the entire building and linger even longer.
The ceiling installation also serves as an innovative and powerful marketing tool. When not creating the illusion of an outdoor space, the ceiling serves as a vivid showcase for branded content, seasonal content, products, promotions, and special events. Its media program uses pre-rendered video and animation, software generated animation, and dynamic media templates that can be easily customized.
“The digital canopy allows us to introduce art into an atypical environment that will pleasantly surprise our guests,” says Stacy Kolios, senior director of marketing for 900 North Michigan Shops. “The installation will also serve as a medium through which we plan to showcase the great ideas of artists working in the digital design space both in Chicago and throughout the world.”
The LED canopy was part of a larger renovation project that included wayfinding and new entry walls.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.