Twin Experiential LED Video Walls Light Up Lobby Of Chicago’s Aon Center

The Aon Center, one of Chicago’s tallest and most recognizable buildings, has followed the lead of some other major commercial office properties in turning a feature in the lobby to a giant LED digital wall.

Part of a recent renovation of its lobby and atrium included a pair of 42-foot-wide by 10-foot-tall direct view LED walls running custom-designed motion graphics and video content. The commercial property owners used NanoLumens‘ light and skinny displays for the wall, though a press release doesn’t get into the pixel pitch.

“During renovation planning we worked with architects to include cutting-edge features that would be fun for tenants, prospective tenants and guests,” says Joe Hynes, Senior VP of Project Management at JLL, the center’s property management firm. “One of our ideas was a massive digital canvas, and NanoLumens was the obvious choice to make this idea a reality. As people pass by and enter the building their sight line is dominated by the astounding visuals playing on the NanoLumens displays. In fact, they have to walk right between the two displays in order to enter the main hallway, so it’s almost as if they are walking directly into the digital content itself.” 

The walls run five three-minute videos on a constant loop. All the content was created by the Seattle-based content shop Pixelfire. One video shows the view from a train traversing Chicago as it passes by the lakefront, the Chicago Loop, the city’s elevated tracks and some of its famous architecture. Acting as a single, ultra-wide display, the train then crosses over the hallway onto the adjacent screen.

Another piece of creative content, says a press release, portrays a digital ballerina rising out of a water fountain that was created using motion capture of a live ballerina. A third visualization presents a mirror image on both displays of a picture in frames, which gradually change and move in different patterns on each display, which again captivates the lobby’s audience as they wait to see what happens next.

Hynes says they plan to update the content quarterly. “This is a visual experience unlike anything else in Chicago. It’s so enthralling that people, including tenants, are constantly stopping to take selfies and videos and sharing them on social media. The same thing happens at lunch hour as visitors pass by the displays on their way to the building’s restaurant section.”

Indianapolis-based integrator Sensory Technologies did the install, and Cariane Kafka, Project Manager at Sensory, notes that using Nano’s tech made the job particularly easy.  “It’s a lightweight technology, so it doesn’t require much in terms of support infrastructure, and since it is composed of small Nixels that make up a larger display, people can work independently and get the job done quicker,” she says. “These two displays, making up a total of 840 square feet of digital real estate, were installed in just 11 days, almost a full week ahead of schedule. It’s also much easier on the content delivery side since there are only two displays, versus the complicated multi-display system that would be required for a projection or multi-panel installation.”

Big screens in office tower lobbies seems to be a thing now – the 2018 version of fancy water fountains. I know in talking to companies like ESI Designs, which has done a few lobbies, digital art walls are seen by commercial property owners as an amenity that both attracts and retains lease-holders who want to be in a building that’s cool and different.

Big Red One’s Museum Goes Interactive In $8M Renovation

The First Division Museum at Cantigny Park, in Chicago, recently completed a year-long, $8 million renovation that complete reimagining the presentation of the story behind the U.S. Army’s famed division known as the Big Red One.

The new version has extensive storytelling installations that integrate interactive media and other historic artifacts through experiential design. The program  was master-planned and delivered by Chicago exhibit design firm Luci Creative.

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“We were hired to develop a holistic new experience for the First Division Museum with a contemporary design approach, aiming to inspire deeper connections between visitors and all those who serve our country,” says AJ Goehle, Principal at Luci Creative. “As we are seeing already, the new design elements, multi-layered media and interactives are helping visitors get to know the world-famous Division, its soldiers and their stories, while also developing a better understanding of their own roles impacting today’s military.”

“Since we opened on August 26, our visitation is up by 30% and visitors are thrilled, many saying they had never really thought about how much we ask our soldiers to do every day around the world,” adds Paul Herbert, Executive Director at First Division Museum. “That is exactly the insight we wanted – to connect the visiting public with their soldiers and the missions they undertake in our name.”

Among the numerous media and interactive installations are large-scale touchscreens present life-sized soldiers telling their own stories. There is also a full-scale Blackhawk helicopter equipped with VR headsets that transport visitors directly into a house raid in Iraq, while boarding a Bradley fighting vehicle whisks them into a Gulf War battle.

There is also a First in War permanent exhibit, which honors the Division’s story from its 1917 creation through the Vietnam War. Here as well, the reimagined exhibit includes new graphics, thematic environments, and films amplifying epic soldier experiences from WWI, WWII, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War.


Chicago Mall Gets Stunning Makeover With Huge LED Canopy

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.




AFTER – Photo Credit: Caleb Tkach

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.