A Venue Built to Redefine a Neighborhood With an Engaging Architectural Video Experience

By Kirsten Nelson, Special to AVIXA

AVIXA_CS_Pier17_02_600x400When a project’s scope is to redefine an entire neighborhood in lower Manhattan, every decision is imbued with huge possibilities. Such was the inspiring opportunity presented by the Howard Hughes Corporation’s tremendous redevelopment of the 400,000-square-foot area surrounding and including Pier 17, which was once home to the mall at South Street Seaport. 

But the reconstruction of the neighborhood’s anchor element of Pier 17 is the opposite of an indoor, enclosed, limited shopping complex. Newly built from the riverbed upward, the SHoP Architects-designed Pier 17 is all about open spaces, connection with the water and skyline, and expansion outdoors along patios and across the 1.5-acre rooftop. Together, the view-enhancing, transparent structural design elements, super-hip dining options and a growing lineup of entertainment programming will cultivate an atmosphere that Howard Hughes hopes will be a new destination for city residents as well as those visiting from elsewhere.

The total project has all the makings of an experience designer’s dream. There will be much to explore as various portions of the venue are switched on. First, the indoor-outdoor atrium at the core of the building has initiated the conversation, saying hello to those already enjoying the seasonal riverside amenities with an immersive architectural video wall array designed in collaboration with WJHW  and ANC.

AVIXA_CS_Pier17_01_600x400Design conversations around the videowall structure and product selection began early in the architectural planning process. Howard Hughes was looking to make a visual statement with LED displays, but one that blended with the sophisticated design motifs of Pier 17’s atmosphere-cultivating structure.

The focus was on the two-story atrium at the center of the venue. Largely an outdoor space, even with some shielding by large retractable windows, the atrium wraps around escalators that connected the two indoor levels and the expansive rooftop entertainment zone.

Curating just the right look and weatherproof grade for such a space required some thoughtful aesthetic and engineering consideration. In discussions spanning more than two years before the displays would be lit, every nuance of the design intention was explored. Throughout the process, ANC created a number of 3D rendering fly-throughs that showed how the LED displays would fit along atrium facades, columns and even the ceiling. 

The exploration of evolving design ideas was familiar to ANC, which works with its venue clients on all levels, from display selection and installation, to content creation and management.

AVIXA_CS_Pier17_06_600x400“We wanted to present Howard Hughes with a solution that we thought was the right one for this venue, since it was such a beautiful and iconic site,” says Jerry Cifarelli, Vice Chairman and Founder of ANC. “The nice thing about it in this case was that the look everyone wanted to accomplish was more about creating art, and not necessarily just advertising displays.”

While the content will indeed include promotions for sponsors and upcoming events at Pier 17, the implementation of the LED video ribbons and displays allows for a more creative and cohesive content design that will flow through the entire space. Using ANC’s LiveSync operating system, the 2,000 square feet of displays can be united as one canvas or addressed individually with content. 

Echoing the smooth materials used throughout the space, the LED displays were configured as seamlessly as possible, covering each surface precisely, accommodating for angles and shapes along the way. In particular, the displays that wrap around the columns were installed with custom-designed cabinets that completely eliminated any gap at the corners and allow for a smooth and continuous image all around the rectilinear form. 

As might be expected, image quality was a significant factor in selection of the LED displays themselves, and ANC worked extensively to identify and provide a solution that would not only withstand the outdoor elements, but also provide gorgeous imagery usually found indoors.

“Even though it was an exterior application, they wanted a tight-knit display, something similar to the work we did at the World Trade Center in the Oculus and at the Fulton Street train station,” Cifarelli explains. “But those were indoor. So our goal was to find that finer pixel pitch in an outdoor-rated display.”

The end result of their search was a 4-mm-pixel-pitch product that was outdoor-rated. “They’re beautiful displays,” Cifarelli says. “It might be the coolest project we’ve ever done, with different shapes, the ceiling, columns, the atrium displays. It’s a lot of pieces that are not just boxes. It’s like LED art, and once everyone sees it, they’ll want to do more.” 

Indeed, use of the displays is already expanding. With the launch of Pier 17’s inaugural summer event series comes the opportunity for new ways to engage visitors with captivating imagery. And with each new look, the neighborhood finds new vibrance in its redefinition. 

Editor’s Note: Look for more case studies on each new component of Pier 17 as the project completes its rooftop live events space and opens several premium restaurants.

Kirsten Nelson

Kirsten Nelson has written about audio, video and experience design in all its permutations for more than 20 years. As a writer and content developer for AVIXA, Kirsten connects stories, people and technology through a variety of media. She also directs program content for the TIDE Conference and Technology Innovation Stage at InfoComm. For three years, she also created conversations around emerging media and experiential design at InfoComm's Center Stage. Prior to that, Kirsten was the editor of SCN magazine for 17 years.