Skip to main content
Contribution to Book
The Empire State Building and the Roles of Low-Resolution Media Façades in a Data Society
Proceedings of the 2nd Media Architecture Biennale Conference: World Cities (2014)
  • Dave Colangelo, Portland State University
Media façades and reactive architecture are playing an increasingly important role in media circulation and the experience of the city. The highly visible and data-reactive low-resolution displays of buildings like Toronto's CN Tower or New York's Empire State Building shape the texture, tempo, and legibility of the urban experience, an experience that is produced (and consumed) in a unique combination of on and offline activity. Emerging from histories of weather beacons and illuminated architecture, I argue that these expressive surfaces increase the ambivalence and contingency of the experience of the city, enabling the formation of temporary publics through public data visualizations that combine elements of democratized urbanism, critical debate, emotion, control, and commerce. Buildings with programmable LED media façades are also palpable substantiations of supermodernism, that is, of the irruption and imbrication of the "infoscape" and the cityscape, of urban informatics, information aesthetics, and mediated urbanism in architecture. Through historical research, social media analysis, and research-creation, this paper focuses on the specific case of the Empire State Building and reports on the relationships between information, public space, and architecture that are sustained and supported by low-resolution, expressive architectural façades. The paper ends with a discussion of the potential for art and activism for low-resolution digital architectural displays via two research-creation projects: In The Air Tonight (2014), a project created for the LED façade of the Ryerson Image Arts Centre in Toronto, and E-TOWER (2010), a project created for Toronto's CN Tower.

  • Digital media,
  • Information display systems,
  • Facades -- Technological innovations,
  • Site-specific installations (Art),
  • Public art spaces,
  • Interactive art
Publication Date
November, 2014
ACM International Conference Proceeding Series
Publisher Statement
Copyright is held by the owner/author(s). Publication rights licensed to ACM
Citation Information
Colangelo, Dave (2014) The Empire State Building and the roles of low-resolution media façades in a data society. In: Proceedings of the 2nd Media Architecture Biennale Conference: World Cities, 19-22 Nov 2014, Aarhus, Denmark.