I was staying down by the World Trade Center in New York last week, and in my efforts to find a specific subway station, I kinda stumbled across 7 World Trade Center – an office tower destroyed and then rebuilt after 9/11.
The building’s glass lobby has a giant LED installation by artist Jenny Holzer, which stretches 65 feet behind the front desk. It has white and blue LEDs behind a scrim, and runs what amounts to a ticker all day and night.
Holzer’s artwork, in this case, involves selecting and running poems and prose that illustrate New York’s history. The words drift across the screen in five foot letters, and it would take 1.5 days for all the words to be run, and then be repeated.
It’s an interesting spin on the age-old idea of billboard tickers, and an approach a building owner could use to create a monumental, ever-changing signature visual that doesn’t bust a budget. This install would have used an LED array that was anything but fine pitch, and the translucent scrim softens and pulls together text that, without it, would look like a dot matrix print-out.
Filling a lobby with 2mm LED would be amazing, and amazingly expensive. This is a reminder that large-scale digital visuals can look good even on a much tighter budget. The other thing is that this is a set-and-forget piece that runs 36 hours – meaning it’s not creative that needs to get (again, expensively) refreshed.
This went in, it appears, in 2006, long before LED walls in skyscraper lobbies started being a thing.
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.