Inside an office building on a bustling strip in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, a newly installed piece of digital artwork is putting the paintbrush in the hand of the city. Canvas, a digital media installation commissioned by Beacon Capital Partners for 515 North State Street, utilizes custom software to create abstract color compositions derived from the motion of the neighborhood.
At Five One Five North State, ESI Design transformed the building’s lobby into an eye-catching contemporary art space. Playing on the typical approach of installing an abstract painting in the lobby, ESI Design instead created a unique 14-foot-wide-by-23-foot-tall digital art installation that constantly ‘paints’ new compositions. Titled “Canvas,” the site-specific work, which was unveiled in 2017, deconstructs original video footage of life in Chicago’s vibrant River North neighborhood into a museum-worthy piece of art that is always evolving.
515 North State Street was designed in the 1990s by Pritzker Prize–winning Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, who topped the building with a four-story “sky-window” that became a defining element of the Chicago skyline.
The building features bold, angular architecture and a striking lobby, but lacked warmth and intimacy as well as the wow-factor and amenities that attract tenants.
The design aimed to create a 21st century contemporary experience that would allow the building owners to recruit a diverse tenant base, including tech startups, media companies and high-end professional services.
ESI Design re-imagined 515 North State’s lobby as a contemporary art space. The centerpiece is a full-height (14×23) LED wall media art installation that brings dynamism into the main lobby by capturing the neighborhood’s energy and diversity.
The screen plays videos of daily life in the surrounding River North neighborhood. The software “paints” the videos in an Impressionist style. As the colors of one scene merge into another, new compositions appear. The footage dissolves into abstraction and then it slowly sharpens back into clarity.
The custom software analyzes each video for moving objects, so moments like a person walking or car driving become the ‘brushstrokes’ that create each abstraction. As each video collides with the next, new compositions unfold in real time, creating thousands of possibilities in this one-of-a-kind digital artwork.
Part of a larger renovation, Canvas is complemented by sculptural furniture and transparent LCD screens providing real-time local information.
A new media experience transforms this office lobby into a contemporary art space. These elements work together to create an entry and lobby experience as visually bold as the building architecture as well as to mirror the energy of the city.
The soaring installation is visible from the street through the building’s glass facade, breathing life into the surrounding streetscape and creating a new Chicago attraction by capturing the attention of passersby.
This modern renovation reveals how digital art can transform buildings into experiences that draw tenants and delight visitors. The days of the motionless logo or a static piece of art decorating the office lobby are over. The work unveiled at 515 North State proves that new, engaging and artistic experiences can be found in the most unexpected places, including modern Class-A office buildings.
Beacon Capital Partners (client and building owner)
ESI Design (experience design lead)
Gensler (architect of record)
TGRWA, LLC (structural engineers)
Chicago Scenic (fabricator)
Diversified Systems Inc. (systems integration and design)
AV&C (software development)
Clune (general contractor)
Dictionary Films (video shoot)
Caleb Tkach (photography credit)
Thomas Interior Systems (furniture)