In most cases commercial media billboards are simply attached to buildings, ignoring their architectural concept since—by nature– they are programmed solely to attract maximum attention. Maybe there are ways to put both sides in a more synergetic relationship. The “Architectural Advertising Amplifier” (AAMP) is a permanent generative media art installation at “Wilkie Edge”, a mixed commercial development in Singapore. AAMP is creating transitional aspects between a commercial LED billboard that had already been set into the façade and the actual architecture of the building.
AAMP is a large-scale low-resolution matrix of 546 full color, computer-controlled LED lights turning the entire curtain wall glass façade of this office building into an irregular screen augmenting the high-res commercial screen. It invades the interstices of the building’s façade construction, turning it into a layered collage in which the commercial screenings are digitally echoed and dynamically blended with the “material” architectural elements.
Installed in the outer layer of a double skin façade, each of the individual LED lights is used as a “light projector” inducing a square color projection onto the inner hull. The Venetian blinds in front of the office windows serve as projection screens; in the evenings, when the employees leave their offices, motion sensors signal a central control system to close the windows. Step by step, an area of more than 800m2 of the façade is thus transformed into a very large screen display with an extreme low resolution. The lit window rectangles of offices still in use punctuate the digital image here and there and give view to the activities behind. In this way, the dynamic exchange between material and media becomes a persistent plot (≥ Cube-X): sometimes controversial, sometimes like a rehearsed choreography. This media installation does not cover up, but transforms the architecture to become a carrier of digital information and an urban landmark at the same time.
To create its continuously changing content, AAMP “hijacks” the never-ending stream of commercial content displayed on the LED billboard: A specialized artistic software permanently analyzes this content and transforms it into a visual color-echo that is displayed on the AAMP installation in real time. Triggered by the results of the software’s image analysis, various algorithms are applied to automatically “digest” the incoming images and generate a never-repeating artistic interpretation.
Although the resolution of the installation is extremely low, the displayed abstract images and patterns maintain an astonishing degree of legibility as the human brain manages to link and associate the color patterns back to the originating moving images displayed on the commercial LED billboard (≥ C4).
While the production of an artistic light aura as such is the default operational mode, two special modes are there to add an extra twist: With “Recursive Mode”, the software not only processes the AAMP behavior, but also aesthetically feeds back onto the LED billboard itself in real time, i.e., the software artistically manipulates the screened commercials and acts on both the high-end and the low-end screen. While the use of “Recursive Mode” is bound to special agreements with the advertisers, “Dream Mode” is automatically used at all times when no paid commercials are scheduled for display—here the AAMP machine starts “dreaming” by generating a unique, abstract yet poetic art piece based on all the commercials shown—and recorded—in the past.
While commercial LED billboards on most buildings remain “anti-architectural elements”, AAMP is an attempt to generate a transitional joint between the realms of art, architecture, and advertising. Maybe it can help to enrich the ongoing discussion about the use of large-scale advertising as an undeniable element of today’s urban reality.
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