200 Clarendon Street - Boston
09 / 11 / 2017

Sosolimited, creators of sensory spaces through design and technology, unveiled Colorspace, an interactive sculpture that transforms text messages into breathtaking animations of colored light. The unique installation, which resides in the upper lobby at 200 Clarendon Street (formerly the Hancock Tower) in Boston, was commissioned by Boston Properties, which owns and manages the building.

“We set out to create an artwork that could evolve through an ongoing conversation with the community around it. On a personal level, we wanted to create a playful and surprising moment for tenants as they entered and exited the building each day,” explains Sosolimited Co-founder John Rothenberg.

“You can literally send it any message, and it will translate your text into a unique color palette of shimmering light. ‘Beach’ lights up the space with blues and yellows. ‘Watermelon’ gives you shades of pink and green,” said Eric Gunther, Co-founder of Sosolimited. “And ‘disco’ lights up the lobby with hot pinks and purples.”

As tenants and visitors enter the mezzanine, they pass a long wall with a wave-like row of suspended light pendants. Anybody with a mobile device can send a text message to the phone number printed on the wall. The sculpture replies with a text message and seconds later, a sparkling wash of colored light sweeps across the length of the mezzanine, illuminating the space with new colors.

The polished marble and chrome surfaces of the modernist lobby shimmer with reflections, immersing viewers in colored light.  When no one is interacting with the sculpture, it cycles through a series of curated color palettes, continuously changing the mood of the space.

“The mezzanine at 200 Clarendon is a transitional space that sets the tone of people’s experience as they enter and exit the building,” explained Sosolimited Designer Wes Thomas. “Throughout the design process we worked to create an experience that balanced change and excitement with calm and contemplation.”

The intention of the artwork is to create a dynamic and relevant lobby that gives tenants in the building a sense of ownership and voice in the design of their shared space. “We’re strong supporters of the Boston arts community,” said Laura Sesody, Marketing Director at Boston Properties. “We set out to commission an artwork that could evolve and respond to the people that see it every day. We’ve been thrilled with the response to Colorspace from our tenants. They can’t stop using it.”

From concept to installation, Sosolimited used design and engineering to create a surprising new experience. Here are some key features of the design and technology behind Colorspace: 70 glowing pendants suspended along the lobby wall in wave-like fashion, creating an immersive surface of colored light. Each pendant can independently change color, controlled by custom software. The pendants are made from a specially formulated acrylic manufactured by Okalux.

The material looks like clear glass, but has microscopic particles that catch the light when illuminated. The Okalux material is often used for “light pipes” that passively transfer sunlight into the interior spaces of commercial buildings. A custom software algorithm performs a web-based image search for each text message, analyzes the pixels of the top image results, and builds a visually interesting color palette.

This color palette is translated into network messages that are sent to the custom circuit boards driving the LED lights. The LED boards were designed for Sosolimited by Mike Harrison, an engineer based in Essex, UK. Anyone passing through the lobby can interact with the piece by sending a text message.

If no one else is in line, it shows your colors immediately; if other people are waiting, it sends a follow up text letting you know when your colors are about to be shown. Each pattern stays up for 10 minutes. When no one is texting the sculpture, it cycles through a curated set of terms, designed to give the space a wide range of looks. Over the course of days or weeks, the same message can return different results as images shift on the web.

“This is the third in a series of artworks we’ve created that transforms words into big displays of color. It provides a simple, personalized way of interacting with  technology, and with a low barrier for participation. Anybody can create unique and surprising visualizations by just thinking of a word,” said Sosolimited Partner Wade Aaron.

Sosolimited creates sensory spaces driven by design and technology. They believe that an organization’s ability to differentiate itself and create lasting engagement requires new, strategic approaches to the many roles space can play, be it physical, digital, shared, personal, or competitive.

Founded by three MIT graduates who blend their backgrounds in physics, computer science, architecture, arts and music, the studio imagines and builds installations and experiences for technology, real estate, and institutional clients. With studios in  Boston and San Diego, Sosolimited has worked with clients including Google, VICE,  Porsche, IBM and Boston Properties.

Their work has been recognized by The Art Directors Club, D&AD and Cannes Lions, as well as exhibited internationally at the Walker Art Center, Smithsonian Design Museum and the Shanghai Biennial.