Three Giant LED Heads Drive “The Conversation” On Boston-Area Building

October 25, 2021 by Dave Haynes

This an interesting new community art project in the Somerville area of metro Boston that uses an array of LED light sticks to create three giant heads on the 90-degree corner of a building there.

The six-storey tall, head-shaped LED art spectacular is called The Conversation and it formally went live this weekend at a development called Assembly row.

“Considering the density of artists living in the Somerville area, the goal was to develop a unique media canvas for regional artists to engage their community and present ideas that can evolve with time,” says Jeff Grantz, director of creative technologies from DCL, the firm that worked with Daktronics and Street-Works Studio on the project.

The 25mm LED display sticks form three heads – one facing right, one facing forward and one facing left. Local and regional artists use these canvases with slow moving, vivid content that is enhanced with the unique shape of the LED displays.

“The collaboration with the team at DCL and Street-Works began as a notepad concept sketch that came to life over many months of planning and coordination in the form of a larger-than-life creative digital experience,” says Jeff Everson, Daktronics technology strategist. “We worked cohesively through several design iterations and took full advantage of the flexibility of Daktronics freeform stick elements and our collective engineering expertise to pull off this unique digital canvas.”

The three 47-foot-tall freeform LED displays are 80% transparent allowing air to freely flow through the parking structure. Each head consists of more than 500 stick elements ranging from one meter up to four meters in length and they are energized by remote mounted power supplies to maximize transparency on the display and provide easy service access to the system.

Daktronics coordinated with DCL’s management team throughout the project to ensure an efficient installation process that minimized the time required for craning and mounting large pre-assembled sections of heads into place.

“’The Conversation’ continues to build on Federal’s commitment to public art through Assembly Row while taking that effort to another level of visibility and permanence,” said David Middleton, general manager for Federal Realty at Assembly Row. “We are grateful to the whole team that came together not only with an impactful digital canvas, but also a comprehensive plan to ensure it will continue to make a statement and support the community for years to come.”

Creative content for the project was selected and curated by Somerville design studio, StudioHHH and ILLUMINUS. The StudioHHH team also created one of the main pieces shared on the digital canvas titled, “The Conversation,” which shows Somerville and Cambridge residents actively listening in an outdoor environment.

The project uses Dak’s Venus Control Suite to schedule, push and manage on-display content.

I like. A conventional LED display on a building like this would, at this scale, cost a serious pile of money, and would end up looking like any old advertising billboard. I’m guessing Somerville residents were much more open to a community art project than to a version of Times Square. It’s also an interesting way to clad a parking structure.

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