This is the LED ceiling of 250 West 57th Street, up near the south end of Central Park in New York.
The 80 foot long by 8 foot wide art installation has been running for the last couple of years, but I just heard about it last week, and found time Friday morning to walk over for a look.
The ceiling screen creates generative, customizable images and was composed by lighting artist Marc Brickman and award-winning video artist Lindsay Scoggins. The building owners, when announcing the ceiling (along with other upgrades) said it had endless capabilities.
Each new 24-hour cycle follows a limitless visual evolution, comprised of daily material sourced from the internet. The individual compositions include abstract art, live news feeds, galaxy depictions, and extreme weather. Additionally, the screen is equipped with sound capabilities, allowing images and sound to blend to create an immersive experience, resulting in a live art gallery.
“The new lobby at 250 West 57th is another example of Empire State Realty Trust’s commitment to not only transform the look and feel of our buildings but to also improve the tenant experience,” said Ryan O. Kass, Senior VP Leasing for the property firm. “The technology utilized for this screen ensures that the same image will never reveal itself more than once. It’s a true feat of ingenuity, which blends our total transformation of 250 West 57th Street’s lobby, and the building as a whole, into the best boutique office building on West 57th Street. This is what we do at ESRT; we reimagine and repurpose our properties for the 21st century.”
The uniqueness of the screen comes from behind-the-scenes algorithms that provide information in real-time. Online sources such as weather, hashtags, and trending topics allow the video artwork’s appearance to adjust daily. For example, if the screen is displaying sunrise, the algorithms will correspond that image with real-time weather in New York City. As this input changes daily, the look of the video artwork will reflect those changes.
Anthony Malkin, the chairman and CEO for ESRT, echoed the comments of other property people in suggesting a high tech, highly visual lobby would attract higher-paying tenants.
“I did not want to do another white lobby, I didn’t want to do another black lobby,” Malkin told Commercial Observer. “I didn’t want plants or a water feature. We wanted to do something that had never been done. And we didn’t want to have one big piece of art. We wanted something special, unique—something that is alive.”
What I saw was very impressive, though the lobby is narrow and deep and a ceiling does not, I’d suggest, hit you visually as much as a feature wall.
Electrosonic was the solutions company behind the project, installing the AV and control systems. No idea whose LED tech.
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.