Texas A&M University has recently awarded the winning commission for the new Memorial Student Center 12th Man Hall to Memory Cloud, a collaborative project by RE:Site (Norman Lee and Shane Allbritton, Artists) and METALAB (Andrew Vrana, Joe Meppelink and Michael Gonzales, Architecture + Fabrication).
Through a competition and short-list interview process, the team demonstrated the ability to harness the potential of programmable LEDs, remote sensing, parametric design and digital fabrication to create an open ended narrative of the story of the University through animated silhouette imagery of past and real-time present student life on the campus.
Animation of the competition-winning installation Memory Cloud by RE:site + Metalab
Project Description from the Designers:
Memory Cloud explores the embodiment of tradition, as patterns of movements handed down within a community of learning and practice. An ethereal constellation of light points in a sculptural cloud form expresses the dynamic pulse of Texas A&M campus life, and connects the past with the absolute present. Within each elegant strand, LED nodes flicker on and off to create three-dimensional silhouettes that float across a matrix of light. These silhouettes are drawn from archived footage of time-honored traditions: the Corp of Cadets, the Texas Aggie Marching Band, Kyle Field traditions, and past graduations. Memory Cloud juxtaposes and interlaces this footage with a real-time feed of everyday student life, portraying the moving silhouettes of students in the MSC. In this manner, students become both viewer and subject within the context of the work of art.
Memory Cloud connects the past with the absolute present. This living sculpture uses multimedia technology to collapse time and space, to celebrate the daily renewal of tradition in the lives of Texas A&M students. Memory Cloud expresses this dynamic pulse of community through the real-time silhouettes that constantly change throughout the day. Past and present are united for the viewer, who cannot tell if these silhouettes were created minutes, hours, days, months, or decades before. Traditions unite past and present through shared patterns of movement, passed down through a community.
Tradition is embodied in daily campus life, yet it has an ethereal, transcendent quality that lifts students above the everyday. This transcendent quality is best expressed in the medium of pure light, a medium made possible by LED technology. Memory Cloud features 4,000 networked LED nodes integrated within transparent tubes of various lengths suspended from a diagrid framework, creating a vibrant, illuminated pointillist sculpture.
Memory Cloud invites viewers into a rewarding experience of discovery as they move around the sculpture. The sculpture’s dynamic, undulating form creates dramatic vistas for viewers as they travel up and down the stairways surrounding the work. Memory Cloud becomes part of the daily social life of the MSC. As viewers move through 12th Man Hall, the silhouettes seem to appear, then disappear. From certain angles, viewers see abstract patterns of pulsating lights; from other angles, they discover moving, three-dimensional silhouettes, blurring the boundaries between figuration and abstraction.
Points of Light
Four thousand points of individually controlled light are housed in 256 acrylic tubes and suspended from an ethereal floating canopy in 12 rows. Each layer can be programmed with a unique video from the real time feed or from archival video of past iconic events in any combination. While the sculpture is static, the animations create a work that is never the same twice and always refreshed by the participation of the student body. The lights are visible from all vantage points in the space and from outside in the newly renovated Rudder Plaza through the monumental glass wall of the new 12th Man Hall.
Custom fabricated acrylic disks are made directly from the artist’s digital model and are dimensionally tuned to find the form of the surface of the Memory Cloud. They will be illuminated via “fiber optic” effect by the lowest LED nodes in the tubes and convey the sense that the animated bodies in the video are passing though a glowing veil enveloping the space of the Memorial Student Center and 12th Man Hall in a fluid field of light.