Thursday, July 25, 2024

Kraftwerk LT: Pavilion of possibility

Kraftwerk Living Technologies supplies innovative, interactive AV to the Saudi Arabia Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai

by Martin Palicki

The giant monolith sticking out of the ground at a 24-degree angle is a beacon, drawing visitors closer. In addition to being visually arresting, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) Pavilion houses a suite of immersive technologies, shatters several world records and is one of only a handful of legacy buildings slated to remain beyond closing day at Expo 2020 Dubai (October 1, 2021-March 31, 2022).

Designed by Boris Micka Associates, the building’s architecture beckons people into the pavilion, but it’s the technology that keeps them engaged. Kraftwerk Living Technologies (KLT) performed the role of AV integrator and was responsible for the design of all the pavilion’s audiovisual systems from concept to completion.

KLT Middle East Managing Director and KSA Pavilion Operations Manager Stuart Taylor was proud of not only the design of the AV systems, but their reliability as well. “We were very thoughtful in the technology we chose,” says Taylor. “We relied on our experience and put equipment through rigorous testing during the design phase.”

According to Taylor, the building’s AV systems are controlled by the Brainsalt server system, in partnership with Crestron. All media content, tracking and auto-alignment of projectors is handled by Brainsalt servers. Over 30 media servers are used throughout the pavilion.

In the Vision area screens, mirrors and projectors work in tandem to create a spherical illusion.
Outside wonders

Plaza Square, located below the angled building and adjacent to the KSA Pavilion entrance, provides an outdoor experience for visitors to the pavilion. This area boasts two Guinness World Records that KLT was directly involved in:

• Largest interactive LED lighting display (7,798 RGB LED lights with IR technology utilizing tracking cameras to respond to movement from people walking above)
• Largest mirrored LED screen (directly angled above the LED floor is a 1,302.5 square-meter LED screen behind a glass mirror; the effect allows reflections from the LED floor to blend with images behind the mirror)

Plaza Square also serves as a location for cultural events and dances. KLT helped integrate into the building a special AV system to support these special events. Around the edges of the mirrored LED screen a channel houses the sound system and 24 Robe I-pointe intelligent light fixtures, built on a custom-engineered frame that moves the lights out of view when not being used.

Interior delights

Once inside, guests pass in front of a 22-meter long standard 2.5-mm LED curved screen, showing panoramic scenes from around Saudi Arabia. From here guests proceed up a long escalator through the Heritage section of the pavilion. The escalator passes by scaled buildings and scenes from old Saudi Arabia. A series of Barco F90 projectors provides spots of projection throughout the built scenes, showing people gathering in storefronts, dancing, etc.

Ascending past scaled buildings from old Saudi Arabia

Stepping off the escalator guests are at the top of the building in an exhibit room titled “Land and People.” A walkway passes between a curved LED wall of 266 sqm and a concave LED screen “dish” on the floor of 108 sqm and 12-meters diameter. The 2.5 mm LED wall and the 3 mm concave screen show scenes from locations in Saudi Arabia. The wall shows the view forward and the dish shows the view below, giving guests the sense that they are moving over the landscape. From certain vantage points, it appears that the walkway is actually a bridge. A smaller screen on the side indicates what area of the country is being depicted.

Guests proceed down another long escalator to the ground level. This future-themed area takes guests past renderings of a forward-looking Saudi Arabia. KLT installed 31 Barco F70 projectors to create continuous images on both sides of the escalator. Taylor’s team took care to mount the projectors to keep the imagery free of shadows from architectural components.

Descending the escalator, guests are surrounded by projected scenes of KSA’s futuristic ideas.

At the bottom of the escalators, guests round a corner and enter the Vision area, one of the pavilion’s most arresting scenes. Guests see what appears to be a 40-meter diameter globe, coupled with an interactive projection-mapped floor. In reality, a small convex screen (created with positive air pressure from three fans) is illuminated by two Barco F80 projectors. A series of mirrors surrounding the small screen create the whole globe image with a kaleidoscope effect. Above, 14 additional projectors cover the floor in imagery. Tracking cameras enable real-time reaction to guest movement.

After exiting outside, guests proceed down a spiral staircase to a garden area. On this lower level they can enter the large Discovery Center, designed to highlight specifics about KSA’s future plans. The centerpiece is a 14×12-meter touch table with 42 positions that can be occupied at the same time and 20 projectors overhead to cover the entire table.

Since this space is directly beneath Plaza Square, a series of acoustic dampeners installed in the truss system minimize vibrations from movement above.

The “Land and People” area of the pavilion uses curved LED screens to immerse guests in the beauty of Saudi Arabia.
The Kraftwerk Living Technologies team

During the peak of construction, KLT had over 50 technicians and engineers working on the pavilion. The Austria-headquartered company has a regional office in Dubai which supported this project, along with other Middle East projects.

“We have a history of creating theme park attractions,” says Taylor, “but we also excel at these technically-challenging projects outside the typical theme park space.”

During the Expo, Taylor had a team of 12 operating and maintaining the KSA pavilion’s technology systems, ensuring everything was show-ready by the 10 a.m. Expo opening.

In the Discovery Center, guests encounter a 14×12-meter touch table that up to 42 people can use at a time.

Taylor was touched by all the visitors and their reactions to the KSA Pavilion, but one category of visitor in particular made him most appreciative.

“We’ve had hundreds of thousands of school children visit Expo. They are our future, and I’m excited to share with them everything I’ve learned over the years,” he explains. “So when I see a kid’s face light up and they ask, ‘How does that work?’ I am so happy to share this technology with them.” • • •

Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki owns and publishes InPark Magazine. Started in 2004, InPark Magazine provides owners and operators the perspective from "in"side the "park." Martin has also written for publications like Sound & Communications, Lighting & Sound America, Attractions Management and others. Martin has been featured in Time Magazine, and Folio. Martin lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

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