• State Grid Corporation of China wow Expo visitors with Magic Box

    15 July 2010

    State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) is the national company for the transmission and distribution of electricity. SGCC is rated number three in China’s top ten enterprises and is a global partner of the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai. Atelier Brückner from Stuttgart, Germany, was commissioned to design the State Grid Pavilion, with its main show area being the Magic Box, a distinctive cube which seems to float within the State Grid Pavilion complex. 

    Atelier Brückner crafts spaces generated from content, translating contents in an exciting way, allowing atmospheres to develop, evoking spatial images that arise from theatrical concepts, leading the visitor along a constant line to the centre of a specific story – this is the dimension of scenography. The challenge of scenography lies in linking spatial design and the information it contains. Design and content become one, creating new compositions harmonizing dialog between form and content. 

    The Magic Box transports visitors to imaginary worlds. It is the pulsating heart of the State Grid Pavilion that clearly depicts the company’s responsibilities and visions in astounding images. The Magic Box with its innovative and challenging character was born out of the desire of the client and the designer to create a spectacular journey of power in an ephemera and holistic narrative that creates a fascinating, electrifying spatial experience. 

    Standing on a glass bridge, visitors are immersed in a spatial installation that becomes an emotionally charged experience. A tight grid of LEDs on the inner walls of the Magic Box allows a room to be contrived by light effects, enclosing visitors on six sides. They become part of a film, which transports them on a journey through time and space from the origins of energy, by way of the transfer of energy across all of China down to the consumption of energy in the cities of the future. Visitors are imbedded in a spatial motion picture, an electrified world of artificial dimensions – thus the physical LED box is no visual limitation anymore but a virtual window to dimensions beyond the LED walls. 

    In striking images the film, directed by Marc Tamschick of Berlin, conveys how the responsible use of energy ultimately leads to improvements in living conditions in cities. The all-embracing power grid being the prerequisite for a targeted supply of energy is represented in the prologue and epilogue to the film as an animated grid, revealing three-dimensionality and depth. 

    The façades of the Magic Box too are beholden to the grid as leitmotiv. Technical impulses are emitted from the Magic Box, which is seemingly suspended in the horseshoe-shaped pavilion. Pulsating, they engulf the entire building complex and resume there in a network structure. The installation in the Magic Box becomes a pulse generator for power-charged grid lines, enclosing the entire pavilion building. 

    The inside of the Magic Box consists of six giant LED walls – the six faces of the cube, each measuring 15m x 15m and a glass bridge about three meters above the floor to facilitate downward viewing for the 250 visitors. Once inside, the visitor is rewarded with a truly unique, fully immersive, entirely computer-generated three-dimensionally surrounding audiovisual experience. 

    An invitation for more individual imagination. 

    The audience perceives the spatial performance of about 7 ½ minutes as fascinating multidimensional journey in 5 chapters. In Chapter one the audience is invited into a beautiful and mesmerizing magic powergrid. It shows the grid as the pulsating heart of the magic box, slowly increasing the visible volume of energy it is charged with. The second Chapter displays the ability of the grid to implement green energy sources into itself. It shows the incredible power resources that are lying within the green natural forces. It celebrates the beauty of nature.

     In the third Chapter the grid transmits green energy over the very big surface of China. It becomes visible as we experience the distribution to cities. It demonstrates the high amount of clean energy, the big volume that can be transported inside the grid (UHV), surpassing very long distances at high speed. It connects the west to the east and transports the visitor from the countryside to the mega-cities.
    Chapter four shows that the grid is helping to make the motto and dream of Shanghai Expo, Better City – Better Life, possible. The grid is tightly related to city development, business development, working environment and entertainment possibilities – to the people’s life. The last Chapter provides a warm ‘welcome back’ to the visitors, returning some of its energy to the visitors as it guides them out of the magic box. 

    Acoustical Challenges

    Creating the illusion is possible only with proper triggering of the visual and auditory senses. As such, a fully immersive, holistic listening experience was required, which was developed and implemented by Switzerland based Idee Und Klang, a full service audio specialist, who is also responsible for the fully customized, one-off sound composition, editing and mixing of the show soundtrack. The audio playback system consists of a 21.2 channel Acousmatic Room Orchestration System (AROS). 

    Daniel Dettwiler and Ramon de Marco from Idee Und Klang explain, “Within the 720 degree cosmos there is no such thing as a permanent directionality. The parameter of localization and spaciousness therefore is extremely relevant for the composition and truly needs to be treated as a separate creative trail on the same level as melodies and harmonies. Our AROS system allows us to treat the loudspeakers as individual instruments to stage a fully immersive audio experience.” 

    WSDG was brought on board to study a multitude of design versions and their impact on the acoustics of the space. One major issue was the actual spacing of the LED panels – these needed to be as close to each other as possible to properly create the visual illusion, on the other hand the gaps were also required firstly to position the loudspeakers and secondly to obtain a sound path to the rear wall structure which was purposely designed to be highly absorptive. Carlo Fickler, WSDG Project Engineer commented, “Due to the parallel assembly of the LED panels we knew we had to accept a certain amount of flutter echo, so all the more attention had to be paid to the importance of reverberation control. The decision regarding the exact spacing of the LED panels heavily depended on the predicted reverberation characteristics. Therefore, multiple configurations of LED panel sizes and spacings were modelled, simulated and auralized by means of specialized acoustical software.” 

    The LED screens are built from multicolour RGB LEDs and have a pixel pitch of 8mm. The video show is 100% computer generated. The audio replay equipment consists of a Insynergie 24 audio server player and a total of 21 Fohhn LF-220 digitally controlled line array loudspeakers and 2 subwoofer line arrays.  

    Photos: Roland Halbe, Stuttgart 

    Atelier Brückner GmbH – architecture exhibition design scenography
    Krefelder Straße 32
    70376 Stuttgart, Germany
    tel  +49 711 5000 77 – 0

    web www.atelier-brueckner.com


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