Discovery Wall – Weill Cornell Medical College

The making of the WCMC Discovery Wall.

In collaboration with Squint/Opera, we designed and built “The Discovery Wall” – a permanent digital artwork created from thousands of tiny screens and lenses that forms the centrepiece of a major new biomedical research centre recently opened in New York City. This piece celebrates the work being delivered in this new research centre by displaying a potentially infinite collections of dynamically changing content at street level.

Our intention was to draw people deeply into the content, and give a sense of the fascinating and important research being conducted inside the purpose-built research facility. To that end, we designed The Discovery Wall to offer viewers three distinct positions to engage with the artwork: from across the street there is a macro view – a large scale image that can be a huge resolution image or an animation; outside the window, the viewers will see the mezzo content – titles of research areas and clusters of hundreds or thousands of images; and, by standing right in front of the artwork, viewers can discover the final, micro view – high resolution images and paragraphs of text related to the area of research visible from the mezzo and macro positions.

Some Technical details

Electronics
The artwork consists of 2,800 LCD screens in a di-grid. Each screen is independently controllable and can display any full sized colour block, text and image overlays, and full resolution images. Each LCD is capable of displaying 240×240 pixels. Each high resolution macro image is 16,800 pixels wide and 9,600 pixels high. It’s a very very large single image – which has to be stitched together in 2,800 240×240 segments! The electronic design is fully bespoke and modular to allow for simple and effective maintenance. Sections of the screens can be easily removed and replaced. Any damaged electronics can be repaired off-site to minimise any lasting impact on the artwork.

Design

The artwork is designed to look like it is floating in front of the wall. It is encased in a clear acrylic shell that offers robust structural support from the back, and an easy to replace modular tile on the front which hosts all the custom fresnel lenses. The distance between each LCD and its lens has a unique lenticular effect. As you get closer to the artwork, a smaller and smaller viewable area of the screens becomes apparent. This ‘hot spot’ follows you as you walk around.

The artwork electronics and physical structure are designed to be permanent which means that every aspect of it is designed to be serviceable; an exciting part of the brief and excellent challenge to the world of digital electronic artwork! In contrast, the software of the piece is designed to be highly dynamic. Content is scheduled and managed via a custom management software and changes and evolves over time as new discoveries are uncovered at the center, new donors join with their contributions, and new campaigns, events, and announcements take place.

Fun Facts:

  • Number of screens & lenses: 2,800
  • Size: 4,670mm X 2,722mm
  • LCD resolution: 240×240 pixels
  • Max resolution of the whole screen: 16800×9600 pixels
  • Power consumption: < 1KW - less than a lot of blow heaters!
  • Estimated number of coffees consumed by the team: Between 300 & 5000
  • Team:

    A Hirsch&Mann & Squint/Opera collaboration.
    Client: Weill Cornell Medical College

    In partnership with:
    Design: The Cross Kings
    Electronics: White Wing Logic
    Programming: Variable
    Optics: Ely Optics
    Build & Install: Design Communications Ltd

    For press queries, please get in touch.