ESI Design Revitalizes Two Chicago Buildings with Art Installations

Design studio ESI Design created LED-based art installations for the entrances and lobbies of two iconic Chicago office buildings, 515 North State and 1 North Dearborn. The design firm created both revitalizing makeovers for the buildings’ owner, Beacon Capital Partners, an office investor.
The company drew on its diverse team of artists, architects, technologists, storytellers, and strategists to help transform the previously overshadowed properties into memorable experiences.

“Our goal is to create distinctive workplaces and both of these renovations reveal how digital and light art can transform buildings into experiences that engage tenants and draw visitors,” said Greg O’Neal, Senior Vice President and Asset Manager, Beacon Capital Partners. “The work ESI Design led at 515 North State and 1 North Dearborn reveals that new, engaging and artistic experiences can be found in the most unexpected places, including our modern Class-A office buildings.”

ESI Design creates LED-based art installations for two Chicago buildings

ESI Design creates LED-based art installations for two Chicago buildings

ESI Design Art Installation at 1 North Dearborn

At 1 North Dearborn, ESI Design produced a large-scale infinity effect light-art installation spanning 72-feet of street-level windows. Originally constructed in 1905, 1 North Dearborn served as the home of The Boston Store in the 1940s, and most recently housed Sears’s flagship store from 2001 to 2014.  The department store windows now showcase 52 different light animations, creating a welcoming entrance.

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The design firm programmed the nearly 30,000 LED lights in different modes to match the ebb and flow of activity in the building. In one of six animation modes, silhouettes in the shape of people pulse toward the entry, while in the evening the profiles appear to move away, following people as they depart. The window installation also serves as a clock, marking time on the hour with special lighting effects. ESI Design also made a striking new red canopy featuring a new 1 North Dearborn logo. The red canopy and logo both frames and draws attention to the eye-catching animated windows.

“Playing off the building’s past as a bustling department store, we wanted to create a bright and illuminating entrance for 1 North Dearborn turning the building into a focal point and creating an entry experience that wows,” explained Emily Webster, Senior Designer and AV Technologist at ESI Design. “The interesting elements of this design are the lines of light and the infinite mirror effect. We created this endless look using LEDs and mirrored film with a gold tint. We then layered playful patterns and animations in a range of styles from subtle and ambient to more lively. They all work together to activate the façade of 1 North Dearborn and create visual interest.”

ESI Design Installation at 515 North State

At 515 North State, ESI Design converted the building’s lobby into an extraordinary contemporary art space. The design concept plays on the typical approach of placing an abstract painting in the lobby. ESI Design instead made a unique 14-foot-wide-by-23-foot-tall digital art installation that constantly ‘paints’ new compositions. The art piece titled “Canvas,” deconstructs original video footage of life in Chicago’s River North neighborhood into an ever-changing museum-worthy piece of art.

Using custom-designed software, the installation employs locally-shot footage of scenes such amusement rides on Navy Pier and boats on the Chicago River to dissolve into abstract patterns and then slowly sharpen back into clarity. “Canvas” can generate more than 5,000 unique compositions from almost 5 hours of initial video footage specially shot at 16 locations. Passersby can view the soaring installation from the street through the building’s glass facade, thereby creating a new Chicago attraction.

“The daily motion of Chicago ‘paints’ the pictures into place at 515 North State,” described Ed Purver, Senior Designer Creative Technology at ESI Design. “Our custom software analyzes each video for moving objects, so moments like a person walking, or a car driving become the ‘brushstrokes’ that slowly create each abstraction. As each video collides with the next, new compositions unfold in real time, literally creating thousands of possibilities in this one-of-a-kind evolving digital artwork.”

The 515 North State renovation also includes a new building ID sign; revamped elevator bays, which feature transparent LCD screens deliver up-to-date local information including weather forecasts, trending Twitter topics, and transit alerts. A new palette of red and gray creates focal points throughout the long lobby, from the ‘pixel-like’ Do Lo Res sofas configured into sectionals to shades of red on the staircase accent wall.

The Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Kenzo Tange designed the building at 515 North State was designed the original building in the 1990s. He topped the building with a four-story “sky-window” that became a renowned feature of the Chicago skyline.