December 7, 2014 - Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) - Public art installations by Future Cities Lab
December 7, 2014

Public art installations by Future Cities Lab

Lightswarm, 2014. © Future Cities Lab (Johnson / Gattegno). Image © Jeff Maeshiro.

October 4, 2014–2016

Murmur Wall
May 21, 2015–2017

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
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Designed by San Francisco-based experimental design firm Future Cities Lab (FCL), Lightswarm is a stunning facade installation of 430 individual modules, employing sound sensors and LED lights to produce a spectacular light show in a state of perpetual flux. Responding to sounds gathered from the interior space and the surrounding urban environment, this site-specific artwork activates the south facing glass façade of YBCA’s Grand Lobby with playful patterns of light reminiscent of a swarm of flying birds. 

During the day, filtered sunlight produces ever-changing flickers of light and shadow, while in the evening the façade is transformed into a dynamic electro-luminescent composition that activates the glass wall. Sound sensing “spiders,” attached directly to individual glass panels transform the façade into what the artists call “urban sensors—instruments to sense the city, visualize its auditory pulse, and amplify its latent energies into cascades of swarming light.” Real-time data collected from these audio transmitters drive the direction and color of the swarming algorithm, which generates patterns of streaming light. 

The result is an artificially intelligent façade: a smart surface that can sense, compute, respond and interact with its surroundings. Lightswarm‘s unique suspended light modules individually change their intensity and color. Each module was created from 3D printed components, custom electronic elements, addressable LED strips, and laser-cut skins made out of recyclable PET plastic and synthetic paper. Lightswarm is made possible through the generous support of the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District’s Community Benefit Fund.

Murmur Wall
Commissioned by YBCA as an outdoor site-specific installation along the steps of the plaza at the main entrance to YBCA, Murmur Wall is scheduled to be installed in spring 2015. Designed by Future Cities Lab, it will accompany the FCL’s Lightswarm

Murmur Wall is an extraordinary combination of sculpture, light installation and data collector. It will provide a gathering place in the city for data voyeurs seeking out information about compelling issues and topics. Words collected from trending search engine results will momentarily be displayed on the wall inviting visitors to view, contemplate, discuss and debate trending topics or phrases. Constructed out of a complex weave of steel, illuminated fiber optic rods, and digital displays, Murmur Wall will create a lively interface for civic engagement. 

About the artists
Future Cities Lab is an experimental design and research studio operating globally out of San Francisco. Since 2004, founding partners Jason Kelly Johnson (b. 1973, Canada) and Nataly Gattegno (b. 1977, Greece) have collaborated on a range of award-winning projects exploring the intersections of design with advanced fabrication technologies, robotics, responsive systems and public space. Future Cities Lab is at the forefront of exploring how advanced technologies, social media and the Internet will profoundly affect how we live, work, communicate and play in the future. Their approach to design and making, which has been described as “high performance craft,” is also deeply experiential, interactive and materially rich.

Most recently, Future Cities Lab’s Theater of Lost Species and Hydraspan projects were exhibited in the Dissident Futures exhibition (October 18, 2013–February 2, 2014) at YBCA. In 2012, their HYDRAMAX Port Machines project was exhibited at SFMOMA, and they exhibited their work at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. They were awarded the 2011 Architectural League of New York Young Architects Prize and the 2009 New York Prize at the Van Alen Institute in New York City.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA)
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