THE ENERGY DIAL
Creative director Graham Hill explains the development of Unisphere’s centrepiece, a 24-hour Energy Dial projecting 40-foot beams of light
Toward the end of the concept phase, we’d honed in on the circular motif — it connected in so many ways to ideas we were playing with such as the Earth, compression and expansion, the Sun, breathing, life cycles, etc. It just felt right. We knew we needed our main expression to be big and we wanted something mirrored since that was a material that also felt right — something that created a bold statement, but paradoxically reflected what surrounded it. We knew we wanted to create something that pulsed, felt alive and related to what United Therapeutics does as a company.
With these parameters, our architectural expert David Lehman started exploring the form itself. While we landed pretty quickly on the repeating blade pattern, we gradually simplified the functionality until it was absolutely clear. The lights at each point of the dial animate and illuminate outwards when the building is creating surplus energy, and inwards when it is consuming energy. And there is a special custom display to indicate when it’s solar noon. It’s as simple as that. A beautiful, peaceful, everpresent reminder to every occupant that they are all part of the same system working together to achieve a goal of net zero.
Because we were involved early on in the project, nothing had been built and we were able to define the scale and form of elements like the Energy Dashboard. While the touch screen was needed to allow visitors to move through levels of information, we also needed to create a single, bold gesture that moved down the hallway. It had to draw people in, and communicate information about energy generation and usage at a glance. We explored the idea of using architectural glass as a way to create a digital surface that felt like it was organic. By positioning low-res LED panels behind the textured glass we were able to create what is essentially a dynamic, responsive bar graph that stretches over almost the entire length of the hallway.
Throughout the project, we received constant feedback from both our clients and the engineers who developed the building to make sure we were true to its function and its message. After building up a solid amount of mutual trust and respect, we became quite transparent and open in our creative process and in return were afforded quite a bit of aesthetic and technical freedom.
THE VERDICT Thomas Kaufman, United Therapeutics
I think we achieved our goal of creating a medium for Unisphere to communicate its technically complex, sustainable mission in a manner that is inspiring, educational and beautiful.
It was an incredible honour and a lot of fun to lead such a diverse team of experts to deliver a very technically challenging, creative and beautiful final product. We had to figure out how to integrate over 11,000 devices in a single building automation system, how to securely and reliably extract useful data from this system, how to use that data to create impactful visualisations within an already complete architectural design, and finally how to construct these unique, custom installations.
We design and construct these incredible facilities because we see our buildings as physical manifestations of our values and as strategic assets in the effort to recruit and retain the best and brightest. Largely because of HUSH’s incredible work, there is no better example of a building representing our values than Unisphere.
“From the beginning, we approached this project from a content-first perspective”
04-05 A human heart and lungs rendered using light effects combine with signage for the toxicological trials department. Both were designed by HUSH to form part of a wall mural.06 The main hallway features an architectural glass installation that doubles as an infographic. People in the building can choose which analytical data about the building’s energy status is displayed.07 An ebb and flow diagram was acted as reference during the development of 04 the main Energy Dial installation.08-10 Diagrams and typography helped convey the building’s net zero ethos effectively. 11 The building’s exterior is inspiring in itself, with solar panels to generate energy and perforated shades that allow light in. This mechanism also helps control heat and reduce the need for air conditioning during summer.