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The Display Canvas

Video for public art serves community and commerce

This year, a milestone real estate project in Charlotte, North Carolina debuted with an atmospheric, generative work of video art, displayed on the world’s largest 4K display at 64 by 36 feet.

This dramatic display goes beyond the concept of digital signage and makes statement about the changing nature of public art and architects’ relationship to video display.

Legacy Union, a 10-acre, mixed-use development is a community gathering place that pays homage to Charlotte’s past while celebrating the promise of its future.

A mesmerizing video artwork—“Unify”—brings that community message to life on a massive scale in the lobby of the property’s inaugural building. An ever-changing swirl of colors is driven by a complex algorithm; the behavior of each pixel influences the others around it— color, movement, and sound recombine in a complex and interconnected dance—never displaying the same visuals twice.

The massive NanoLumnes wall is driven by an Extron Quantum Ultra 610 videowall processor, serving content designed by Second Story. Founded in 1994, Second Story is a network of experiential design studios with locations in Portland, Atlanta and New York. They’re part of a wave of branding and cultural design studios, and their award-winning work expands the palette of communication for public spaces and brands. This kind of work is changing how architects, city planners, and companies think about the video canvas and how to use it to create experiential moments and spaces.

“We’re overwhelmed and saturated with advertising,” says Joel Krieger, Second Story’s executive creative director. “It’s so refreshing to see more developers using canvases like this to inspire and enhance communities, built environments, and public spaces.”

For Legacy Union, the lobby wall serves as a dramatic statement, amplified in part by its marquee location adjacent to the Bank of America Stadium where the Carolina Panthers play. The building’s architects, designers, technology specialists and ownership saw the opportunity to do something new and exciting with the premium location, taking into consideration how the display would be experienced in many dimensions.

“We designed this space to project outward from the most visible spot, shining through the floor-to-ceiling front windows, across the street and into the open outdoor space between here and Bank of America Stadium,” said Hal Shute, Associate AIA at architecture firm LS3P, which designed the tower. “This is a world-class building, so we looked at cutting edge ideas and technologies that could bring the lobby and public space into the 21st century, while making a real impact on both the space’s design and its relevance to the community.”

With a total square footage nearly 3.5 times that of a highway billboard, the display dominates the space while also merging its design into the architecture itself. Because it was designed to be a native 4K display with a resolution of 4096×2304, any modern content can be shown without reformatting or special processing required, including Carolina Panthers games.

“The display is mounted flush with eight feet of natural stone on each end, so the wall really is a TV,” Shute added. “It was carefully designed to be seamless, to blend into the environment and not appear stuck-on, a trap some other buildings fall into when the technology is a secondary consideration and not a core piece of the design process.”

To use a digital display as part of the space’s design, it had to meet certain criteria. First, the marble and concrete wall on which it would be affixed had already been solidified in the plans, so the ideal solution would be front-serviceable, and not require accessing the units from the rear. NanoLumens turned out to be one of the only display makers to use a front serviceable design.

Second, also due to infrastructure constraints, the display needed to be able to operate without adding any air conditioning or cooling equipment; NanoLumens designs its displays to cool by convection, so they don’t require forced air.

A display of this size and location also had to be perfect to make the impact the client desired, and Frank Milesky, Southeast Area Director for technology integration firm Cenero.

“In any lobby, you want to maximize the available space and limit intrusions into that space. Because NanoLumens displays do not require a third-party mounting system, the total depth ended up being much shallower than competitors,” Milesky said.

According to Arch Nelson, NanoLumens Southeast Sales Director, an additional reason the building’s owners and architects wanted to implement such a big display was to allow split-screen capabilities that still present larger-than-life imagery.

“One of the goals of this installation was to enable one enormous screen to be broken up into 16 smaller, but still huge screens, each 16 feet long and 9 feet tall,” Nelson says. “With any number of sources including cable boxes, computers, streaming services and digital signage software, the lobby’s living wall can become anything they want or need it to be. By choosing a 4K resolution at 4.7 mm, the client and signage operators can easily show any content at any time.”

Meet the Architect

Founded in 1963, LS3P operates from eight offices in Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Myrtle Beach, Charlotte, Raleigh, Wilmington, and Savannah, LS3P has been honored with over 540 design awards in diverse practice areas.

Meet the Content Creator

Second Story provides design, content creation, software development, hardware engineering, and mixed reality. Its artists have created place-based visual experiences for clients including Coca-Cola, Intel, Bank of America, Hermes, Harvard, MoMA , Target and more. http://www.

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