Inspired by a fool-the-eye camouflage technique dubbed 'dazzle painting' that altered the enemy's perception of WWI Allies' ships, artists Nik Hafermaas, Dan Goods and David Delgado are using custom-developed digital technology to create DAZZLE — a monumental public art installation along the 1200-foot long façade of San Diego's new airport rental car center. Thousands of autonomous one foot by two foot "pixels" will animate the installation.
The pixels are stick-on tiles made of E Ink Prism™—the next-generation of the eco-friendly, high fidelity reflective display material used in e Readers—each coupled with a small photovoltaic cell, a receiver and an electricity-storing super capacitor. Used on this monumental architectural scale, the completed installation will be the world’s largest application of the E Ink Prism™ material, its ever-changing display viewed by hundreds of thousands of motorists traveling along I-5. Unlike LED, this material does not contribute to light pollution because it does not emit light; instead, it reflects the ambient light, especially bright daylight.
Hafermaas is Graphic Design Department Chair at ArtCenter College of Design and co-founder of Ueberall International. Goods and Delgado are designers working as visual strategists at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Asked how much of the project is art and how much engineering, Hafermaas says, "The strength of the project is that it is co-creation. We don't complete an idea and then hand it to a fabricator. Instead, it’s a ping pong back and forth until you come to a solution that’s the intersection of what you want to achieve artistically and what you can do through engineering." Hafermaas sees a lot of potential for digital technology when working like that as an artist. "DAZZLE's use of digital technology is an example of what he calls Mediatecture, the fusion of dynamic media with architecture. Taught at ArtCenter, this new approach to graphic design entails working across both emerging and traditional media—everything from environmental graphics and data visualization to interactive spatial experiences—to create emotionally resonant messages."
There is a lot of excitement building up around DAZZLE's completion. Hafermaas sees the project as a compelling story of Win-Win-Win. "It’s a win for us as artists. There is a lot of muscle behind us to realize this project, a team of engineers working round the clock to develop this new application, which otherwise we could not afford at this massive level. It's a win for E Ink Corporation because together we've basically created a new product with them—imagine the potential of self-sufficient dynamic facades on an urban scale with minimal energy consumption, zero light pollution and easy installation. The win for San Diego Airport is getting a revolutionary piece that is much more valuable than just the budget would normally provide." He adds, "It's important to acknowledge that the airport was brave to do this. None of us knew what the actual solution would be when they gave us the commission for this art piece."
When Hafermaas, Goods and Delgado answered the San Diego Airport's request for public art qualification, their response emphasized that they would explore design ideas that used new technology, but that would not be driven by new technology. "The airport appreciated that we were first and foremost striving for an iconic piece. We never want technology to dictate the solution we come up with," says Hafermaas.
Artists: Nikolaus Hafermaas, Dan Goods, David Delgado
Animation and Programming: Ivan Cruz
Engineering and Fabrication: E Ink Corporation
Project Management: Jeano Erforth, Ueberall International
Project Name: DAZZLE: San Diego International Airport
Client: San Diego International Airport Art Commission
Location: San Diego, California
Open Date: January 2017
Project Area: 72,000 SqFt
Architect: Demattei Wong Architecture
Graphics Project Budget: $800,000
Overall Project Budget: $316M
Photos / Renderings by: Ueberall International
More information and project updates at ueberall.us