The most eye-catching building on the Denver skyline, the Wells Fargo Center, has become even more distinct, thanks to a stunning makeover by the Manhattan-based experiential design firm ESI Design. The three-year project features an eight-story digital installation in the building’s glass atrium.
The sweeping renovation of the Wells Fargo Center is the latest in a series of innovative designs that ESI Design has created across the country for real estate investment firm Beacon Capital Partners, the building’s owner. The designs have reinvigorated Beacon’s properties in cities such as Boston, New York City, Chicago and San Francisco and increased occupancy rates.
The Wells Fargo Center, designed by Philip Johnson in 1983, is known as the Cash Register Building because of its unique shape, which resembles an antique cash register. Inside the building’s immense street-level glass atrium, which echoes the cash register shape of the roof, ESI designed five 86-foot floor-to-ceiling LED columns that are six times the resolution of normal HD. The monolithic screens display dynamic media inspired by the Mile High City’s natural wonders.
ESI’s team of media designers and animators conceived the inventive content to fully exploit the epic physical scale of the space. The mix of pre-produced and generative media includes:
- A flock of birds that are animated in real-time; a total of 3,600 birds are always deciding what to do next, at 60fps, based on algorithmic rules of behavior. They can fly for hours and their flight pattern never repeats
- Floor-to-ceiling waterfalls built in 3D, containing 15 million polygons each that have variations of speed and volume and move across the wall in different paths depending on the direction of the wind outside.
- A grove of trees—modeled, textured, and animated individually in 3D—changing with the time of day and season, such as a change in color in the fall and the loss of leaves in the winter
- Colorful ink drops swirling in slow-motion using video footage of a tiny plastic fish tank, filmed in a studio in Hoboken
- Colorado mountainscapes that are actually mosaics of thousands of Instagram photos, drawn from an ever-growing library of local, user-generated images. Each Instagram show is built up of 8 different mosaics (each with a different tile size and containing thousands of images). From a distance, the effect for the viewer is like looking through slats in an enormous fence to the majestic Colorado landscape beyond the skyscraper’s walls.
- The vibrant media installation is visible from outside through the glass atrium, breathing new life into the surrounding streetscape and drawing passersby into an experience that promises to become a new Denver attraction for tourists and locals alike.
“The space demanded a design that was epic in scale, but we didn’t want an enormous rectangular screen that would have felt like typical digital signage,” said Ed Purver, Senior Immersive Designer at ESI Design. “So we split the screen into five separate columns of LED to accentuate the impressive verticality of the atrium. Viewed together, they create one canvas.”
According to Purver, ESI Design wanted the media content for the columns “to feel like a window to the outside, since Colorado is all about the outdoors.”
“The imagery reflects the regional landscape, and captures the fluid movement patterns of nature – whether in the flocking patterns of birds, the cascade of a waterfall, or the swaying of trees in the wind, said Purver. “Our goal was to find the right balance between tranquility and grandeur, and between the media and the architecture. The experience is, quite simply, like nothing else out there.”
In addition to the LED installations, ESI Design created a more modern, social, and comfortable lobby for the building. New furniture and lighting nod to the Philip Johnson–designed environment while giving the space a more contemporary feel.
Displayed throughout the lobby are paintings and sculptures created by the New York–based artist Enoc Perez (Puerto Rican, born 1967). The commission, created specifically for the site, consists of a sequence of 14 large-scale paintings for the lobby’s niches and a complementary series of five unique sculptures for the elevator alcoves.
“Denver is an exciting market that is attracting creative and technology-oriented companies” said Fred Seigel, President of Beacon Capital Partners. “Our transformation of the lobby experience at Wells Fargo Center, as well as the addition of market-leading tenant amenities, enhances the iconic building’s distinct sense of place and creatively engages our tenants and visitors.”