Thirty years ago, Blade Runner gave us a futuristic vision in which giant video ads proliferate the skyline. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of using building surfaces as digital canvases. In the last few years, the German design collective URBANSCREEN has been developing poetic counterpoints to the loud, animated billboards one finds in Times Square and Shibuya Crossing. Using custom-crafted, large-scale, site-specific animations, they elevate architectural projection to an art form.
This summer they produced “Lighting the Sails,” a massive projection on the roof of the Sydney Opera House for Vivid Sydney 2012. And the imagery is unbelievable. In one moment, a dancer spins across the roof; the tiles appear to ripple with her movements. In another instance, the entire roof ripples like the sails on a boat. I love how these projections don’t proselytize gaudy messages or force you think too much. They simply invite viewers to celebrate the architecture. These masterful projections show how even an inanimate building can adopt humanistic qualities.