Toronto Office Tower Uses Cascade Of LED Windows To Transform Otherwise Stark Lobby

October 8, 2021 by Dave Haynes

This is actually a couple of years old, but just came across a case study about a really nice lobby LED installation in Toronto.

My first reaction to a video wall at the Globe and Mail Centre was, “I thought newspapers were running on financial fumes?” But digging into the case study, it appears Canada’s oldest national newspaper is perhaps an anchor tenant or bought naming rights for the building, which is owned by the commercial property develop First Gulf.

The case study on the design site CODAworx was put together by the creative lead – Toronto-based Forge Media + Design. Where a lot of building lobbies these days are doing one BIG canvas that fills a full back wall and perhaps even a ceiling (check this one in Madrid), this job reduced the size and capital budget by having a series of LED panels that steadily reduce in size and increase in the gaps between each. The full wall is 70 feet wide.

This integrated, interactive media installation, located in the new Globe and Mail Centre, has transformed a formerly stark lobby space into one teaming with vivid life. A series of ’windows’ offer whimsical views into stylized worlds that respond to pedestrians’ movements and alter over the course of time. This brand new office tower is located within the burgeoning St. Lawrence neighbourhood of Toronto (Canada) on one of the original ten city blocks of the Town of York. Developer First Gulf approached us, wishing to transform this prestigious building’s lobby to imbue the space with colour and life.

The expansive 70 linear foot LED wall greets you from your first steps into the space. The striking array of columns compliments the linearity of the architectural language, while feeling as though it is growing.

Two distinct sequences play upon the idea of growth, using an illustrative, urban landscape and idyllic forest scenes to explore this concept. Each sequence transforms throughout the day, using time, traffic, and weather data to evolve the settings and the details of the animations. Pedestrians’ movements are captured and incorporated into the artwork to add responsiveness to the experience, allowing them to become active participants in the artwork.

Goals

The vision for the project was to completely transform this newly built, pristine, but stark lobby space at the Globe and Mail Centre, breathing new life into this busy pedestrian thoroughfare with a fully integrated digital experience. Forge was asked to craft an artful installation that honoured the architecture, but also added a sense of vibrancy to the tenant and visitor experience, while creatively capturing the essence of the First Gulf brand – growth.

Forge set out to create artworks that would express growth in two ways, showing the equilibrium that must be struck between urban growth and honouring nature. A great deal of effort was put into each piece to make them timeless, whimsical and vivid, with enough depth to keep them relevant and engaging for years to come.

Process

Our team of environmental designers, UX experts, artists and technologists worked tirelessly to create a truly magical installation that has garnered compliments and praise from both tenants and the general public alike.

‘Interstitial Space’ is an exploration of the unique interplay between how our cityscape shapes our movements, and how our movements bring the city to life. It translates pedestrian’s movements into colourful lines that weave through an illustrated cityscape, revealing depth and adding energy. Over the course of the day, 8 distinct eras celebrate the history and growth of the city of Toronto, from its humble beginnings to its modern state today.

‘Bloom’ invites the viewer to wander into its whimsical depths, drawing you into a calming digital forest. As you walk past it, geometric, floating lanterns gravitate towards you, dancing amidst the trees. If you stand to view the artwork, you may release a spirit animal into the scene. These mythical totems embody nature’s power and are related to the current weather. As you experience Bloom through the year, the scenes will emulate the seasons, from the hazy warmth of summer to the soft blanket of snow in winter. Bloom brings the outdoors in, imparting a sense of serenity to a bustling downtown office.

Additional Information

In addition to the artistic and narrative concepts behind the pieces, Forge implemented an innovative Neural Network, a form of artificial intelligence, to facilitate the responsive nature of the installation. Using camera sensors, the Neural Network detects individuals, analyzing their position related to the physical space and feeds this data into the Unity3D software. This positional data drives how the individual artworks alter and transform, making the pedestrian’s moving through the space an integral part of the generative aspect of the digital experience.

The responsive, interactive nature of the artwork is something that’s been done a number of times. I like this approach, but always wonder if the people passing by know they’re influencing what’s on the display (which I think would be interesting to many/most of them)

While this design would reduce capital costs, it’s important to note that the project had a $500,000 artwork budget, so the property people didn’t do what sometimes happens – put up an expensive video wall and start looking around for some video to run on it.

RP Visual Solutions did the custom mounts, Digital Dreams AV and Chris Vanier were the integrators. I dunno whose LED modules.

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