Sensing Change

Practice Area


John Buck Co.


Project Vision

A new data-driven, dynamic art installation on a terrace in downtown Chicago uses light to draw a connection to nature. Titled “Sensing Change”, the installation is powered by live data feeds creating a unique and ever-changing experience that can be enjoyed both during the day and at night. Standing on a 2nd-floor terrace against an imposing 100’ x 30’ concrete wall, the light trellis was designed to make the space feel more open and organic. Viewable from the street and the building’s upper floors, the piece adds a dynamic component to the surrounding neighborhood.

The trellis is composed of 390 brushed metal fins housing linear white-light fixtures facing the viewer and color-changing fixtures facing the wall. All are controllable in 10-millimeter increments to create a textured structure that plays dynamically with animation and light. By combining line-of-sight and reflected lighting effects, the sculpture alternately reads as a single or multilayered surface as the two layers of light react independently and as a unified canvas.

There are two media modes that play on the light trellis: Living Wall and Special Event. The Living Wall mode creates dynamic animations influenced by local weather data input. The abstract light patterns are inspired by a sense of precipitation, water traveling through leaf veins, sunlight rays, and the flow of oxygen in and out of the atmosphere. The Special Event mode allows building management to program the trellis so that it can connect to the local neighborhood and community through a celebration of holidays and Chicago’s local events. There are four templates that can be applied to specific color patterns and animation styles to create over 54 different media permutations.

Over time, the LED trellis will support lush ivy growth on the wall. Together, the trellis and vines will create a unique juxtaposition of technology and nature. The design feels organic and contemplative, evoking the calming feeling of dappled light through trees. The result is a peaceful and reflective experience in the middle of Chicago’s concrete jungle that draws inspiration from the natural world around us.

The final design is the synthesis of a green wall and technology in the shape of a media trellis: a data-driven digital experience that will also support a lush growth of ivy over time.  Along with supporting organic plantings, the trellis creates an artful visualization of the natural environment as expressed through weather, wind and light. The building tenants and local community have responded positively to the project, which has created a new landmark in the Chicago Loop.

Project Details
Design Team

ESI Design Team: Emily Webster (media architecture/AV technologist)upLIGHT Team: Michael Stiller, Amanda Clegg Lyon (lighting designer), Leonor Montes de Oca (physical designer)

Project Area

3000 sq ft

Project Budget

$1.75 M USD


Trip Kyle (production manager)


Lee Martindell (Dimensional Worldwide – project manager)