French anthropologist Marc Augé referred to airports as “non-places,” sites most people experience as ambiguous, unmemorable and transitory zones. The neutral and regulated space of an airport might be one of the last places you'd expect to see any sort of contemporary artwork worth giving a hoot about, but as we've seen time and time again, airports are becoming unlikely venues for some heavyweight art commissions.
The latest comes from Montreal-based media and entertainment studio Moment Factory, who created multiple “interactive capsules” inspired by the romance of travel and the importance of passenger experience for Los Angeles International Airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal.
Created by a team of over 400 people, including design visionaries Marcela Sardi and Mike Rubin, Fentress Architects, system engineers Smart Monkeys, Inc. and system designers Electrosonic, Moment Factory produced over four hours of media content and 40 short films for the seven terminal features. The interactive capsule content ranges from romantic to nostalgic to whimsical, all while maintaining a consistent air of placidity.
Using motion design, live-action filmmaking, 3D animation, architectural design and other forms of media-making, a few Moment Factory’s seven interventions include a multimedia "Welcome Wall" for arriving passengers, a "Bon Voyage Wall" for those departing, and two Portals that respond to real-time arrival and departure data for 16 countries, as well as the physical movements of individual travelers.
“Story Board” at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX.
The terminal’s focal point is the 72-foot Time Tower, a real time clock built around the terminal's main elevators with a motion sensitive interactive surface composed of 6,480 square feet of LED surface. Depending on the time of day, the physical movements of individual travelers will trigger the Time Tower to respond with corresponding media capsules and seemingly shift its architectural form. At every hour, for example, the Time Tower will shift to Dance Time, a Busby Berkeley inspired capsule in which travelers are given a glimpse into the inner-workings of the tower, revealing a fleet of glamorous dancers gracefully twirling the clock’s gears in perfect time.
Production Still from the Making of “Dance Time.”
While Dance Time was filmed on set in Montreal, Moment Factory shot footage for the various media content on three different continents with locations in Brazil, South Africa and Southern California. Moment Factory’s Project Manager and Content Strategist Hans Samuelson emphasizes that the terminal’s interactive projects are site specific--not just to California or Los Angeles, but specifically, to the Tom Bradley Terminal at LAX. He explains:
In some ways, what we were asked to do was to be part of giving this place a distinct character, beyond the architectural character [of the terminal]...it’s distinctive, but in the same time you’re in that familiar experiential realm of global airport, there’s something beyond the inherent architecture of the space, there’s sort of the experience of being in transit, of being in a space that’s transient, that’s temporary, of being inside kind of a floating space. So we’re trying to anchor people a little bit in this place, but also respect their experience of being in that floating space of floating times, floating destinations.
Welcome Wall at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX
In addition to the rigorous theoretical grounding for the terminal’s interactive projects, Moment Factory collaborated closely with teams from Smart Monkeys, Inc. and Electrosonic to create seamless display surfaces that appear more like architectural infrastructure and exotic landscapes than screens. Samuelson enthusiastically elucidates on the tech used for Time Tower and the other terminal fixtures:
We used three different display technologies. The portals [between terminal entrance and exit points] are actually LCDs... Most of the features are a 6mm pitch LED, and then the base of the Time Tower is a 10mm LED with a diffusion glass in front. One of the reasons why when you look at it, you don’t feel like it’s an LED screen [is that] you’re not sensing individual pixels. The systems designers made sure that we had a 1 to 1 relationship between pixels in our video content and pixels on the screen.
Samuelson hopes that Time Tower and the other pieces installed in the Bradley Terminal deliver more than beautiful images, but rather, a comprehensive experience. “We speak to people in an emotional register, there’s a lot of intellectualization that happens behind the scenes...but the end result is emotional, visceral---if we don’t get people in their hearts, we haven’t succeeded.”
Time Tower and the rest of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX will be open to the public later this Summer.