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Unique Outdoor LED Sign Display: Chanel Ginza, Tokyo

written by: Tarun Goel • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 11/22/2011

When Chanel was trying to select a design for their location in Tokyo, they did not go with conventional things. They wanted the outer wall of the building to not only be a normal structural barrier, they also wanted the wall to serve as a communications media, a daylight source, and a window.

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    Chanel Ginza: An Introduction

    A team of renowned architects and light engineers collaborated to bring the Chanel Ginza into existence. Matthew Tanteri is the man behind the artistic beauty of this project whereas the architectural aspects of this project were primarily handled by Peter Marino Architect and R.A. Heintges & Associates, both from the New York City.

    Chanel Ginza won the Lumen Award for Merit in 2006. This project shows how display facades can be used as highly integrated curtain walls in a stylish way. The greatest challenge associated with this project was integrating the LED system with the window-bearing curtain wall of the structure. The architectural team successfully developed a structure that was both cost-effective and also provided a black backdrop for the LED tubes at night. In day, the 56-meter high façade appears transparent, affording sun protection to occupants inside with an unobstructed view out. At night the glass turns translucent and LEDs switch on to transform the building into a large scale screen. In the following section we will find out the technical details and engineering aspects associated with this engineering wonder situated in Ginza, Japan.

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    Technical Aspects of Chanel Ginza Wall Display

    Actually, what executives at Chanel wanted was a display that would match the simplicity and elegance of the Chanel brand. The perfect solution was a 10-story-high media wall at Ginza that had changing messages through a black-and-white LED system. As mentioned previously, the design team at Peter Marino and Associates Architects, New York came up with the design for this, Chanel’s biggest boutique. American architect Marino had previously created boutiques for Chanel that incorporated unique LED walls and lighting effects. However, nothing that he had worked on in the past for Chanel had been on this scale. The outer wall of Chanel Ginza is 215 feet tall. In fact, it is the tallest building in the Ginza shopping district.

    The architectural solution was to create a three-layer wall system with integrated white LEDs. Electrochromic glass was used to allow the wall to function differently during the day and night. Electrochromic glass changes in opacity depending on the current that is applied through the material. The glass is transparent during the day, and at night it is translucent. Solar control is managed by one of the glass layers, a gray-tinted Low-E laminated glass.

    The triple-glazed wall has a stainless-steel mesh set within it to control the light from each of the pixels of the white LED array. The LED array is on the interior of the triple glazing. The main outdoor LED sign display is 188 pixels tall by 98 pixels wide. Each 8 inch wide pixel contains 72 LEDs. In total, the structure has 700,000 LEDs. The array is made up of tubes that contain four rows of LEDs that are a mixture of narrow and wide beam spread. Two of the rows are aimed upward, and the other two rows are aimed downward. When the LEDs are full on, they consume 76.8 watts per square meter.

    Behind the LED array are canvas roll blinds. By day, office workers can see out, but at night, the privacy glass and the blinds turn the Chanel building in Ginza into a very large black-and-white video wall that Chanel can use to promote its brand. The solution is very elegant, but it was not easy to achieve. The LED display was the first of its kind in the world. The design team trialed many combinations of materials and lighting and worked with fabricators in Germany, Japan, and California to achieve the final effect. The boutique opened in December 2004. The building hosts an exhibition and concert hall, rental offices, a gourmet restaurant, and a rooftop garden terrace in addition to the three-level Chanel retail boutique.

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    Chanel Ginza in Tokyo is a huge commercial tower equipped with the latest LED Video technology. Another such engineering wonder is located in China where Daktronics Inc. has installed 3,300+ linear meters LED display outside the Hangzhou tower shopping center. Many more commercial centers are mushrooming in every developing part of this world to attract more customers. Increasing consumerism will pave way for the success of these commercial centers, but a lot of people have raised questions over the significance of such projects because of excessive electricity consumption. If it is a sheer waste of resources or an engineering wonder showcasing human excellence and creativity is a debatable topic, but certainly a fine balance is needed to keep things moving in a positive direction.

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