Transforming Places into Experiences with Media Architecture

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

The digital world has given us the ability to see and do things that we never thought possible. Many of our daily interactions take place using technology and the majority of information we receive is from somewhere on the Internet. The digital realm is always at our fingertips and remains a vital part of our lives, which is why blending it with our physical reality is becoming the new norm. These two worlds do not have to be separate – we can weave them together to create experiences that will change social interaction and enlighten our minds. This is called Media Architecture.

Media Architecture is defined as “an overarching concept that covers the design of physical spaces at architectural scale incorporating materials with dynamic properties that allow for dynamic, reactive or interactive behavior.” This type of design is quite broad and can be depicted through endless designs and concepts. These days, Media Architecture is on display all over the world for people to look at and interact with. Physical space does not have to be plain and one-dimensional. Instead, it can tell stories, teach us, and be transformative, creating a new relationship between us and our architectural environment. Let’s take a look at some prominent Media Architecture around the world.

Traditional Media Architecture

The lobby in the Legacy Union Bank of America Tower in Charlotte, North Carolina features endless ambient light, mimicking a sunrise or sunset. Combining office towers and residential space alongside shopping and dining options, this 10-acre development sits adjacent to Bank of America Stadium, home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers football team. This space was designed with community and connection in mind, and aims to inspire the Uptown Charlotte area. The two-story lobby is enclosed by glass windows, so even people outside can see this beautiful artwork illuminating the space. The colors and movement in this Media Architecture design are soothing and elicit serene emotions from those who experience its beauty.

Waterlicht, a Media Architecture piece designed for Dutch District Water Board Rijn & Ijssel in Amsterdam, Netherlands explores the power and poetry of water. This projected illumination simulates the rising sea levels we experience due to global warming. LED lights and lasers create the sensation of being underwater, and the layer of light is constantly changing, influenced by wind and rain. This piece was designed to raise awareness about global warming but also to create a reactive experience for viewers.

Reactive Media Architecture

The Crossroads campus is a group of office and apartment buildings located in San Mateo, California. The office buildings feature lobbies without security or receptionists to greet visitors - instead, an immersive digital experience awaits anyone who steps inside. A series of vertical digital displays in the lobbies are inspired by the Northern California wilderness, and are motion-activated. When someone steps in the lobby, the sound of wind blows through the forest, and the animals make eye contact with you and appear startled. Visitors elicit their own reactions to the Media Architecture, but also are active participants in the landscape. This unique design creates an immersive user experience in an otherwise dismal lobby environment.

Terrell Place in Washington, DC is an office and retail complex that features motion activated Media Architecture in its lobby. Entryways and hallways have large digital panels on them, allowing a variety of different backgrounds to be displayed. There are several nature-inspired designs and also some abstract ones with different shapes and colors. When people walk through a hallway, leaves blow in a breeze, flowers bloom, and colors and shapes circle around and around up above. This space eye-catching and mesmerizing and incorporates several environments into the same space.

Interactive Media Architecture

The Water Light Graffiti project, first installed in Paris, France, is an interactive wall where people can use water to draw in the LED lights. When water touches the edge of one of the LEDs it creates an electrical bridge, and completes a circuit that delivers power to the LEDs below the surface. The more water, the brighter the light shines. Participants can use paintbrushes, sponges, or just their fingers dipped in water to draw on this interactive wall. As the wall dries, the drawings will slowly fade to black. Since its origin in Paris, this project has been installed over the world in Poitiers, Auckland, Jerusalem and New Zealand.

Transforming Everyday Life

Design with Media Architecture has endless possibilities. Digital tools have the ability to bring life to literally any space. Traditional, reactive and interactive Media Architecture inspires connection and creativity in all of us, sparking new ideas and reaching hidden emotions. The designs can be abstract and artistic, or based off of solid data such as weather patterns. Designs can even be learning-based, with the intent to teach students about a new subject. The bottom line is that we can create customized experiences for every environment and every occasion, and this gives us an exciting way to communicate with those around us.

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