Using AV As Architecture

Architects and designers commonly use innovative lighting as an element of interior and exterior design. 1/08/2008 5:45 AM Eastern

Using AV As Architecture

Architects and designers commonly use innovative lighting as an element of interior and exterior design.

Project: IAC Global Headquarters
Application: Corporate
Location: New York
Systems Integrator: McCann Systems, Edison, N.J.

Architects and designers commonly use innovative lighting as an element of interior and exterior design. But so far, technologies such as digital signage and high-definition projection have pretty much remained the domain of the pro AV integrator. A few innovative building designers have realized the value of such technologies in the context of creating a particular environment for their clients, even without full knowledge of those technologies and their capabilities.

For the recently opened IAC corporate headquarters in New York, renowned Los Angeles–based architectural firm Gehry Partners collaborated with designer Bruce Mau of Toronto, Ontario, to find a way to make a corporate statement in the building's main lobby. Mau's studio is guided in part by what it calls “An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth,” which includes the phrase, “Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.” For this project, the collaborators relied on McCann Systems, an Edison, N.J.–based AV integrator/consultant, to match the technology to the creative vision.

“There were two main architectural elements in this project; the building itself and a large videowall in the main lobby,” says Jonathan Shor, director of technology for McCann Systems. The videowall spans 118 feet wide by 11 feet high. But it wasn't McCann's idea to install the huge display. “The architect and the designer were pushing the concept of an expansive videowall before AV was ever on board,” Shor says. Mau's concept was to use colored light and high-resolution photo images in motion and produced video content. What they didn't know was how they were going to achieve it.

“When we were brought on, we created a sort of menu for them to help them understand what the different technologies were that could be deployed that could actually create that size videowall, and the pros and cons of each technology,” Shor explains.

The challenge was to actually present the image size they wanted in the space allotted. Because there were large structural columns and bathroom entrances located near the space where the videowall was to be located, this presented a challenge to Shor and his colleagues.

Shor says that McCann Systems didn't really have a lot of interaction with Mau once the design concept was communicated and the technologies were determined. “Obviously, we knew we were going to do rear projection; that was a given. We decided to project the images in portrait mode, as opposed to their native landscape orientation,” he adds. Normally, creating an image this large consumes a lot of space behind the screen, space that was at an especially high premium in this project. “We only had about 6 feet of clearance behind the screen,” says Shor. “But because the bathrooms backed up to the projection room, we actually used the ceiling space above them, to go further back —it was almost like a shelf for us to position the top section of the mirror sled system.”

The key to working with the limited rear-projection space was a custom-built mirror system. Shor explains the basic process in very simple terms. “The projector hits the first mirror at a 45 degree angle. That mirror rotates the image 90 degrees and reflects the image on to a larger mirror, which then enlarges the image to be able to fill the 11-foot-tall rear-projection screen.”

A key design intent of this lobby videowall was that it be highly visible from the outside of the building. But during certain times of the day, sunlight can wash out the projected images in this window-filled lobby, despite more than 200,000 lumens of light capability. During these times, the projection system changes over to a special lighting system that projects an ever-changing solid color “collage” onto the screens. Two of Color Kinetics ColorBlast LED fixtures — more than 167 of them in total — are positioned below the mirror system to rear-illuminate the Stewart Filmscreen StarGlass screens.

While the AV budget was not exactly a blank check, it was clearly large enough to avoid limiting the original design intent and the technology required to achieve it. “Near the end of the project, if anything was value-engineered, it was anything but the videowall,” Shor noted.

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