Chicago’s 900 North Michigan Shops Installs Digital Skylight Tapestry


ESI Design worked closely with Chicago’s 900 North Michigan Shops to wow visitors with a massive 190-foot LED digital art installation on its atrium ceiling. Part of a larger renovation, the centerpiece installation is visible from the street and all seven floors, transforming the nearly 30-year-old complex into a 21st century attraction that draws retailers and customers alike. The ever-evolving digital tapestry mimics a giant skylight, connecting the complex to the exterior sky.

Nominating Company: ESI Design, New York, New York
Venue: 900 North Michigan Shops, Chicago, Illinois
Project: 900 North Michigan Shops
Category: Public Spaces

JMB Realty Corporation, owners of 900 North Michigan Shops, enlisted New York-based experience design studio ESI Design to transform elements of their vertical mall into a new experience for Chicago residents, shoppers, diners and tourists. The centerpiece of this design transformed the Magnificent Mile shopping center with a 1,084-square-foot digital skylight integrated into the ceiling, as well as bold new exterior signage, a luminous bronze entry and a simplified sleek interior.

Completed in 1989, the 900 North Michigan Shops building was designed to integrate with the surrounding architecture and reference the Art Deco style of its predecessor. The biggest challenge was how to give this building, which has beautiful bones, a sleek and modern update to evolve the ‘900’ brand.

Built over seven floors, it can be difficult for shoppers to navigate this vertical mall and to find their favorite stores. One of the client’s goals was to find a way to encourage shoppers to travel up through the mall and provide more awareness to retailers while maintaining retail sight lines.

Another challenging constraint was how to integrate the digital displays into the existing atrium ceiling architecture and how to plan for installation and ongoing maintenance on such large canvases, hanging from the ceiling. ESI designers worked closely with the client and project partners to develop and architect a solution for this.

Visible from street-level, the media displays entice passersby. Further inside, more of the digital canopy emerges, leading shoppers through the vertical mall. Eyes are immediately drawn to the ceiling installation, which at any given moment, could have 3D-animated birds or Chanel purses moving across the screens. With easily customizable and dynamic content templates, the displays always feel fresh.

The ultra-high definition LED canvas features evocative content filmed at 16K resolution, making the illusion of rustling trees and the sky above seem hyper real.

The digital canopy was installed within existing atrium ceiling squares, honoring the original architecture to transform the ceiling into a digital skylight.

For ongoing maintenance, each of the 10 ceiling sections are engineered on an entirely custom mounting system. This system has hoists to suspend and lower the screens from the ceiling and enables a maintenance crew to climb onto the back for easy servicing.


The digital canopy is unlike anything that’s ever been installed in a shopping center environment. It’s a stunning centerpiece of a comprehensive renovation that reimagines the visitor experience and puts the tenants front and center.

“The digital canopy allows us to introduce art into an atypical environment that will pleasantly surprise our guests,” said Stacy Kolios, senior director of marketing for 900 North Michigan Shops. “The installation will also serve as a medium through which we plan to showcase the great ideas of artists working in the digital design space both in Chicago and throughout the world.”

The installation cements 900 North Michigan Shops as a shopping destination, but also as a cultural hub for the city. Comparing the before and after, the center feels lighter, brighter and more open.

The stunning ceiling gives the center the “wow” factor that 900 North Michigan Shops was looking for.

OKW Architects, Inc. (Architect of Record)
KJWW Engineering (Structural Engineers)
Poblocki Signage Company (Signage Fabricator)
Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc. (LED Manufacturer)
Float4 (Realtime content production and software development)
Diversified Systems (Systems Designer)
Pepper Construction (General Contractor)
Van Deusen & Associates, Inc. (Elevator Consultant)
Brenda Bergen, Wink Design (Creative Director and Designer)
Schuler Shook Inc. (Lighting Consultant)

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