News of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy must have people wondering about the future of the LED-powered corporate installation in Times Square, New York City. The animated electronic display shows a mix of animation, information, messages, and mood based on changes in market news, the weather, time of day, or Lehman’s discretion. Whoever takes over the building will be inheriting a tradition of multimedia animation.
The sign is an intricate system of LEDs, 5340×736, stretching vertically from the third floor to the fifth floor of the building, built around the windows. Horizontally, the sign wraps around the building from halfway down the 49th Street side across the entire length of building facing Times Square, then halfway down the 50th Street side. Uniquely, the building’s windows are not obscured by the sign.
The sign content is controlled by a database that runs on a schedule, with the capacity to be affected by external input. For example, if the weather in Times Square turns gray and rainy, the sign’s mode, color tone, or message may change to match or contrast with the dreariness. Similarly, if the financial markets are up or down on a given afternoon, that input could trigger the sign to change mood.
The New York Square sign was originally developed for Morgan Stanley by the architects, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates. By incorporating the electronic sign into the building’s faced KPF conformed with New York City legislation pushed by Rudolph Giulani that required any new construction in Times Square to have electronically lit signage with a size compensatory to the size of the building.
The concept was developed at Imaginary Forces, under the direction of creative director Mikon Van Gastel, now owner of a A Very Small Office. Van Gastel, told the New Yorker in 2002 that he had been inspired by the colored lights on top of the Empire State Building. He wanted to use technology, he said, to create a series of images that would constantly change the façade’s appearance. “It’s structured like television, with themes, interstitials, transitions,” he said. See more at The New Yorker.
The New York Square signage was transferred to Lehman Brothers when they bought the building in the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001. Visual effects for the Lehman makeover were developed by Reality Check Systems, Los Angles.
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