Digital Façades Rework Academic Buildings

Academic buildings on both sides of the Atlantic are turned into contemporary media showcases.

The recent installation of the large screen on the façade a building at the Cleveland Institute of Art offers a creative outlet for students.

The recent installation of the large screen on the façade a building at the Cleveland Institute of Art offers a creative outlet for students.

A stainless-steel, wire-mesh façade interwoven with LED lights has transformed two academic buildings, one in Cleveland, OH, the other in Copenhagen, Denmark, into contemporary showcases for digital media.

Originally founded in 1882 as the Western Reserve School of Design for Women, the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) is now one of America’s leading art and design academies. In a complex expansion project spanning two years, the George Gund building was adjoined to the Joseph McCullough Center for the Visual Arts and now forms a single entity. The recent installation of the large GKD, Cambridge, MD, Mediamesh screen on the façade of the new building offers a creative outlet for up and coming artists while transforming the historical building.

The university worked closely with the architects at Stantec, Cleveland, who sought a contemporary form of digital media to display graphics, photos, and video sequences created by students. A Mediamesh transparent media façade was ultimately selected and provides unhindered views of the outside surroundings from the building’s interior. Moreover, it allows daylight to penetrate the façade, providing natural light for occupants.

One of the biggest challenges of the project was installing the façade while school was in session. The installation team was cautious, ensuring occupant protection was in place throughout the process. Another challenge was the project’s site. Located on an active roadway, it created limited site access and a small working area. GKD installers were able to work with the material without damaging the product or disrupting the students.

According to Mike Leonard, GKD’s technical director for Mediamesh, “The material was shipped on site as needed, so no site storage was required. This was essential when working with limited site access. We also worked off hours to avoid student-testing times. Our goal was to install the material with minimal disruption to the students and faculty.” In addition to the display, GKD manufactured and installed the steel framework that supports the fabric as well as the electrical wiring.

One of the most interesting elements of the display was the engineering challenge faced when installing the display on a movable building. The building was originally a Ford assembly plant until purchased by the Institute in 1981. The building features movable floor slabs that once allowed the Ford Model T’s access to the train tracks behind the structure. With the building’s movable features, the display is supported by top anchors to let the building retain its original, signature style. The engineers overcame the challenge by creating dead load anchors at the top of the building that hold the weight of the display.

Leonard added that GKD was specified because of the transparent nature of Mediamesh since it was going to be used over glazing. As the building evolved, a large portion of the glazing was removed, but CIA loved the artistic qualities of Mediamesh and felt it was perfect for the application. The interactive display at the heart of the campus is a blank canvas for students and alumni to display artwork.

In order to bring a fresh look to the campus, a large-format SMD-Mediamesh screen was specified at the University of Copenhagen.

In order to bring a fresh look to the campus, a large-format SMD-Mediamesh screen was specified at the University of Copenhagen.

Across the Atlantic

The University of Copenhagen is the oldest university and research institution in Denmark. Founded in 1479, it also happens to be the second oldest institution for higher education in Scandinavia. With the university’s long history, school executives were looking for a way to modernize its design. In order to bring a fresh look to the campus, Arkitema Architects, Copehagen, specified a large-format SMD-Mediamesh screen for the front of one of the four characteristic blocks of the university.

The three-story, glass-fronted base structures are arranged north to south with four vertically integrated blocks. The buildings are outfitted with large, glazed façades that connect the glass strips over two levels. The steel, glass, and aluminum buildings offer a balance between privacy and natural light. The transparent-media façade system supplied by GKD provides an artistic link between the urban structures and the university’s multi-faceted educational concept.

Determining how to mount the complete Mediamesh system, including the external electronics for the pre-existing substructure presented a challenge. The ultimate solution employed the tried and tested mounting concept with round profiles and eyebolts. The surface-mount device (SMD) lines are integrated into the mesh with vertical spacing of 1 1/2 in. and horizontal spacing of 1 7/10 in.

The sophisticated design of the woven media façade provided the perfect platform for the highest resolution Mediamesh system available for outdoor applications. In addition to its exceptional color reproduction and resolution, the design requires a limited amount of energy compared to other systems, consuming less than 160 W for each approximately 11 sq. ft. The limited weight was also a key factor in selecting the system.

To promote its goal of engaging the community, the university commissioned a local artist to design content for the media screen.

In Cleveland and Copenhagen, the images displayed help to bridge the gap between people, culture, nature, and technology.


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