DAZZLE began as a regular public art commission through a competitive process in 2015 and evolved into a research project for the adaption of e-paper technology as an innovative dynamic material for exterior use on an architectural scale.
The resulting solar-powered 1,600-foot long artwork by Ueberall International facing the Pacific Highway comprises 2,100 custom developed e-paper panels that display animations remotely controlled via a wireless network.
The bold graphic elements and animations are seen daily by hundreds of thousands of motorists commuting between San Diego and Los Angeles. DAZZLE is the region’s largest high-tech public art installation and the world’s first permanent exterior application of e-paper technology.
The Ueberall International piece was inspired by dazzle camouflage, a type of ship camouflage developed by Norman Wilkinson and used in World War I. Using stripes and other patterns, dazzle camouflage visually scrambled the outlines of ships as a protection against enemy U-boats.
Experimenting with different ways to execute a geometric camouflage pattern, the artists turned to electronic paper technology as a creative solution. The tiles, developed specifically for DAZZLE in an extensive R&D process by E Ink Corporation, are energy self-sufficient and were applied to the façade like stickers, with minimal mechanical impact on the existing infrastructure.
The individual tiles are articulated in a parallelogram shape and arranged in algorithmic distances from each other to create a dynamic visual effect even when still. The graphic patterns are animated by a library of animated loops evoking water ripples, moving traffic, dancing particles and shifting geometries. The human brain can create vivid mental images triggered by extremely low resolution; we perceive motion much stronger than image, and our brain has evolved to fill in the blanks.
The physical components of DAZZLE include autonomous tiles (approximately 12 by 24 inches), strategically placed wireless transmitters and a host computer. Each tile is outfitted with a photovoltaic solar cell for power, electronics for operation and wireless communication for programmed control. The tiles are individually coded with distinct addresses to enable precise programming of visual facade patterns.
The host computer stores and coordinates all animations designed by the artists. Information is transmitted from the host computer through Ethernet wiring to wireless transmitters attached to a row of palm trees that face the building. These wireless transmitters then forward the information to clusters of tiles which further forward data to neighboring tiles.
The end result is a tile that can transform from solid black to solid white based on the information it receives. Thus, each tile represents one pixel in a field of thousands that is individually controlled through a pre-programmed playlist of synchronized effects.
The tiles are lightweight, bendable, energy efficient and can withstand heat, cold and UV exposure. Electronic ink does not emit light and has a matte appearance like paper, utilizing pigments for coloration. Energy usage only occurs when the material switches color, which means a static pattern does not use electricity. The overall power consumption of the third of a mile-long DAZZLE art piece, including all support hardware, is less than that of two flat panel televisions.
"A technically groundbreaking project that started with more obstacles than opportunities transformed an immense facade into a dynamic solar-powered canvas of wirelessly transmitted low-resolution patterns....using electrified ink."
"DAZZLE shows the tremendous potential of e-paper in outdoor application. The power-autonomous distributed installation is a perfect example of a dynamic façade installation on a large-scale building."
Ueberall Team: Nik Hafermaas, Dan Goods, David Delgado (artist); Ivan Cruz (animation and programming), Jeano Erforth (project management)
E Ink Team: Keith Jacobsen, Seth Bishop (lead engineers)