The MegaFaces pavilion, located at the entrance to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Park, was commissioned by MegaFon, one of Russia’s largest telecom companies and a general partner in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. MegaFon’s two most important brand components are high-tech innovations and people—more that 66 million clients across Russia.
Asked to create a unique experience for the pavilion, London architect Asif Khan was fascinated with the idea of portraiture, used by people for thousands of years to record their history on the landscape, on buildings, and in public art. MegaFaces was inspired by the way digital technology is changing the world around us and how architecture can respond to these changes. Today, “selfies,” emoticons, Facebook, and FaceTime have become universal shorthand for communicating in the digital age. MegaFaces harnesses that immediacy in the form of sculpture, using a modern-day digital platform to express emotion, at the scale of architecture.
The pavilion, a 2,000m2 cube, features a kinetic façade that can transform in three dimensions to recreate the faces of visitors to the building, giving everyone the opportunity to be the face of the Olympics. Athletes and Olympic spectators were photographed in special 3D photo booths inside the building. Their images were formed by 11,000 computer-programmed actuators under the building's stretchy skin, Three portraits, each 8 meters tall, were displayed on the building at one time. Each of the 11,000 actuators carries at its tip a translucent sphere that contains an RGB-LED light. Each actuator acts as one pixel, extending out from the building by up to two meters to create dimensional images, or change color as part of an image or video that is simultaneously displayed on the façade. The faces that emerge from the side of the pavilion are magnified at a scale of 3,500 times the original, creating a Mount Rushmore of the digital age.
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“This monumental installation literally takes digital technology to a new dimension. It goes beyond a gimmicky effect and is an arresting experience that provides visual delight day and night. I feel that I’m seeing the birth of a new design ‘tool’ that will provide great creative opportunities for cultural and commercial applications.
“The MegaFaces Pavilion transforms the faces of Olympic spectators to a huge kinetic three-dimensional façade, reflects the Olympic spirit, and transforms ordinary visitors into Olympic stars.”
Asif Khan (design)
Asif Khan (creative director, author); Peter Vaughan (project director); Sara Griffiths (project architect)
iart (interactive engineering, facade and photo booths)
Valentin Spiess (chief engineer, Mathis Meyer (project manager)
Yulia Vasilyeva, Galina Kukina (project managers); Anastasia Orkina (marketing strategic director)
Axis (agency, project management)
Alsu Khairutdinova (client service director), Polina Sophie Shevskaya (account manager)
AKT II (structural engineer), Atelier Ten (services engineer), AECOM (project management, UK), Progress (local architect), Scott Eaton (digital sculpture consultant)
iart (interactive façade and photo booths), Serge Ferrari (exterior fabric facades and interior fabric wall linings), Axis (event fit-out and exterior and interior furniture), SMU-2 (primary contractor)