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LED ceiling brings the outdoors into shopping mall (VIDEO)

A nearly 30-year-old shopping and lifestyle centre has been given new connection with the outside world, thanks to a new digital canvas that mimics the view of the sky. Flocks of birds fly and giant trees sway inside 900 North Michigan Shops, a mall in Chicago’s Magnificent Mile district.

New York City-based experience design studio ESI Design was enlisted to transform the complex into a 21st-century attraction by means of the 57m-long installation, which spans the ceiling of the seven-level building.

Visible from all floors, and built in 10 sections, the installation mimics a giant skylight. The ultra-high definition LED canvas features evocative content filmed at 16K resolution. In another mode, the ceiling opens to reveal flocks of 3D-animated birds: cedar waxwings, local to the Chicago area, gather and disperse, creating mesmerising, ever-changing patterns. Created by algorithmic rules based on flocking behaviours, the birds will never fly the same way twice.

The background sky and sunlight also adapt to the current time of day. By creating the feeling of an outdoor space, the installation captivates audiences, inspiring them to travel upward through the entire building and linger even longer.

The ceiling installation also serves as a powerful marketing tool. When not creating the illusion of an outdoor space, the ceiling serves as a vivid showcase for branded content, seasonal content, products, promotions and special events. Its media programme uses pre-rendered video and animation, software generated animation, and dynamic media templates that can be easily customised.

“The digital canopy allows us to introduce art into an atypical environment that will pleasantly surprise our guests,” said Stacy Kolios, senior director of marketing for 900 North Michigan Shops. “The installation will also serve as a medium through which we plan to showcase the great ideas of artists working in the digital design space both in Chicago and throughout the world.”

“The new design that includes a digital canopy is unlike anything that’s ever been installed in a mall environment – a stunning centrepiece of a comprehensive renovation that reimagines the visitor experience and puts the tenants front and centre at 900 North Michigan Shops,” said Edwin Schlossberg, president and principal designer at ESI Design.

(Picture: Caleb Tkach)

ESI Design