A new media installation at Occidental College in Los Angeles is adding high-tech flair to a century-old academic building. Designed by Santa Monica-based Belzberg Architects, the two-story-tall multimedia wall wraps around an inner atrium of Johnson Hall, which underwent a dramatic renovation last year to make it a state-of-the-art center for global affairs.
Hagy Belzberg, the founding principal at the firm, describes it as “a giant electronic Post-it wall where students can publish their thesis or their other projects.” The curvaceous glass wall is lit by programmable LED lights in bright colors and punctuated by 10 embedded displays that encourage students to stop and take a look at photos, videos, and more showcasing the work of their peers. If passersby happen on something of interest, they may download the project onto a laptop or tablet via an app. The wall is curated by students in the college’s media lab using software from interactive storytelling company Second Story, part of SapientNitro.*
“When students go and present their papers in class, it basically, after that, gets filed away,” Belzberg explains. “What we provide is an opportunity to publish the paper in a setting where other students, faculty, and visitors get to experience that document.”
In turn, this encourages students to think about how a research project might be presented via digital graphics, not just text, and encourages students to pause on their way to class and engage with material that might be outside of their own coursework.
“It’s taking the information from the closed-off classrooms into the open,” Belzberg says. The redesign of the building included widening the hallways and increasing overall transparency into the classrooms to enable a more connected, social learning experience, where students passing through the halls can see into the classrooms and be inspired. The glass is magnetized and can be written on, in order to facilitate academic discussions (or showcase downtime doodles) and content from the wall can be projected in the building’s classrooms.
“The idea here is to immerse technology, education, and the building together,” Belzberg says. “It was an experiment in immersion.”
*This story originally referred to the interactive storytelling company that collaborated on the project as Second Story. It is actually called Second Story, part of SapientNitro.