The digital art installation redefining the workplace

Delivering unique visions takes a lot of know-how and a leap of faith. Neil Dickinson explains how a new permanent digital art installation breaks the mould at a UK corporate HQ.

Workplaces aren’t just workplaces anymore. Across the board, be it a retail environment, corporate offices or a transport hub, the spotlight is turning towards a new focus: the experience within the workplace.

No longer is the sole focus on providing simply a place to work, but on bringing mindfulness, interactivity and a sense of uniquity to the workspace. For commodity trading platform,, this was the challenge when designing their new London office.

Believed to be one of the very first digital generative art installations of its size, Capital’s new London office reception houses an 80 square metre, ‘C-Shaped’, LED screen - but with a twist, it’s on the ceiling! Content is driven via API feeds from global trading centres and adapts in realtime to the ‘trading weather’, a series of cameras surrounding it track movement providing an extra layer of interactivity.

This allows staff to be informed and influenced by the financial world situation at a glance, combining real-world information with an artistic flair and other immersive elements.

“The project came about from a business contact of mine”, adds Dickinson, “One of his associates had a big project on the table but was struggling to find a company with the experience and ability to deliver it. We were approached as a result.”

Modus Workspace had been selected as interior designers and main contractor for the project, Arcstream, a specialist interactive technology company, were tasked to deliver the ambitious concept and to turn it into reality.

Neil Dickinson, managing director, Arcstream, explains: “We work in corporate, retail spaces, museums and more. We bring experiences to life in a way that is new and exciting, offering interaction and data capture, providing detailed customer insights to our clients.”

Fulfilling the vision of an avant-garde project such as this comes with its own challenges, namely how does a company visualise something that has never been delivered before by combining real-time data with an artistic vision, on such a huge canvas?

Dickinson explains: “One of the features of office life, particularly since lockdown, is that companies realise that they need more reasons to pull their employees back into the office. One of the ways of doing that is to have interesting experiences there to make office life more exciting, collaborative and more community-spirit minded.”

“Nobody could actually imagine the overall visual and sensory impact until it was installed. You can visualise it in designs and plans, but the emotional impact can’t be measured until it’s there in the flesh. We had a strong vision of what it would look like, but on the client side, it was more of a leap-of-faith, with the hope that what was delivered would be something that Capital would be excited about. The satisfaction came when the office went live. The dropped-jaw reactions were so gratifying - and it proved that we’d delivered something really exciting.”

Dickinson says: “Once the project was signed off, Modus coordinated everything from a build point of view, our team managed and installed all the LED hardware and back-end rack equipment, as well as an interactive digital table-tennis table and games room.”

For the LED screen itself, Arcstream turned to Leyard Europe to provide a product that would be effective at a short viewing distance and angle, Capital’s office is open 24/7, so the screen needed to offer reliability in this environment. The unusual placement and size meant the Arcstream team had to design a serviceable system whilst also considering the weight and managing the heat it generated - all in a very busy ceiling space.

“When it came to content, we workshopped with Capital directly to understand what they wanted to convey. One of Capital’s founders is a financial and technical genius, he always had a dream of bringing data and art together – it was a meeting of minds. He could see what our system could generate, and identified the best sources of information. It felt like a eureka moment when we discovered that he could realise his dream with the LED ceiling.”

To drive the content, Arcstream worked with Skandal Technologies, their POET server system is designed to drive large scale generative art displays. Dickinson clarifies: “It’s a fantastic system, you can feed a lot of data into it, with multiple outputs, it’s an incredibly versatile system that can generate interactive particle effects and much more. We created 13 different scenes to define different scales of trading weather, overlayed with the tracking of people walking past the display for additional interactivity.”

Dickinson says: “It’s important that it doesn’t just look good on a desktop monitor, but that it looks amazing on a huge C-shaped screen in a room where you walk out of the elevator and boom - it’s there. There is the idea of financial markets in terms of weather metaphors, so it was a case of turning the way that people use metaphors to talk about trading into things that look like weather without it being cliched. We avoided the trap of just going for storms or blue sky, but made something that gave the emotional feel of trading. It was a very fulfilling process!”

“Generative art, typically, is projections on buildings as one-offs”, adds Dickinson, “but this time, the generative art installation is part of the building. This is the first example, at scale, that is part of the built environment, not just a screen. It is a purpose-built installation that affects people’s mood and emotions every minute and every day. If trading is hot, the ceiling reflects this with warm colours, for example, but there’s motion too.”

The result is that Capital is outfitted with a truly unique setup that visualises information with a coherent artistic vision in a way that feels natural to a forward-thinking company, putting experience at the heart of working life for its employees.

Dickinson closes: “The reaction of people when they saw it was a proud moment for us, as it went through its different scenes, people were wowed and wanting to interact with it. Capital wanted the office to feel important and to fit in with their employees’ work/life balance. The project saw us forge a strong relationship with everyone involved, and we see generative art as a real growth area that we are actively promoting. We are also in the planning stage with Modus to work on future projects. It’s an exciting time!”

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