Play the Façade

The façade of the Ars Electronica Center, with its 38,500 LEDs, has been shaping the cityscape of Linz since 2009. Just one year later, the “sprucing up” of this landmark turned into something bigger, something innovative: with the façade terminal, the Ars Electronica Futurelab transformed the static museum shell into a designable medium for the public. A decade later, it was time for a new edition: after a lengthy hiatus, the Futurelab team redesigned Play the Façade at the end of 2022 and, after a test phase, released it to the public in spring 2023 – with a website full of fresh creative possibilities.

The outworn interaction terminal was completely redesigned for Play the Façade: Instead of a display in the public space, it now contains an explanation and a QR code for the new Fassadenspiel web app, because the developers have shifted the control of the Fassadenspiel to the users’ smartphones. The 38,500 LEDs of the Ars Electronica Center can be controlled – or completely switched off – via a wifi connection to the building. Current information and opening hours for Play the Façade can be found here.

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A new interface was created for the web app that makes it possible to send commands directly to the façade control system. The website allows only one person at a time to take over control for ten minutes. The terminal next to the Danube uses indirect colored lighting to indicate whether a time slot is currently available, and is thus once again the center of Play the Façade as an information point. This is also where the Bluetooth connection is established, that can be used to play sound over the facade. If you only want to control animations of the facade, you can also take control on the maindeck via several wifi access points.

In the first version of the façade terminal in 2010, users took control of the Ars Electronica Center’s façade directly via the touch-screen terminal. Various applications were available, such as a pulse interface that used a pulse sensor to transmit the user’s own heart rate to the building-with the option of changing colors and pulse patterns. In addition, the user’s own pictures and videos could be transferred from a cell phone or MP3 player to the building, or the integrated camera could be used for direct interaction. The third function was an audio interface with which any music could be played via the system in the facade – here, too, the visuals could be designed by the users themselves and in real time.


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Interested in similar projects? The following Ars Electronica Futurelab projects are related to the ideas and concepts presented here. An overview of all our productions, cooperations and projects can be found in our project archive.