Data Sculpture Turns a San Francisco Building Into a Stunning Morphing Visual

VICE Magazine – The Creators Project



LA-based artist Refik Anadol has turned the media wall of the 350 Mission Building in San Francisco into otherworldly digital sculptures. The public art work is called Virtual Depictions and uses parametric data from the city to create the stunning visuals.

To do this Anadol used publicly available frozen datasets — on everything from transportation to city management, museum data and housing —put online by the city of San Francisco as part of their open data portal initiative SF OpenData. Meant for developers, analysts, residents, and whoever else wants to use it, Anadol combined it with Twitter’s real-time API service.

The frozen sets of civic data and pedestrians on the urban streetscape are combined with the real-time geolocated Twitter tags — and 3D point cloud data — fed through toolkit VVVV and various software including Cinema4D, Rhino, and Softimage XSI, to create dynamic visuals that are never the same twice.


“Traditionally, architecture cannot produce buildings that transform themselves in response to a environmental data feed.” says Anadol. “The architecture of the future, however, envisions to be enticingly malleable and increasingly collaborative, gathering architects with media artists, designers, programmers, and engineers. And for these collaborators, the building offers a decidedly public canvas on which they can observe how their creations come alive. For 350 Mission’s lobby, my main motivation for this seminal media architecture approach was to frame the experience with a meticulously abstract and cinematic site-specific data-driven narration. The media wall turns into a spectacular public event making direct and phantasmagorical connections to its surroundings through simultaneous juxtapositions. The project also intends to contribute to contemporary discourse of public art by proposing a new hybrid of media arts and architecture in the 21st century.”