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Face time at the Olympics!

Industry News | March 1, 2014 | By:

Asif Khan, an award-winning designer and architect dubbed “London’s anti-starchitect,” accepted a commission from MegaFon, a Russian telecom company, to create a pavilion at the entrance of the Sochi Olympic Park for the Winter Games. Intrigued with the immediacy of communication in the digital age—“selfies,” emoticons, blogs, tweets and Facebook posts—Khan wanted to “harness that immediacy in the form of sculpture; to turn the everyday moment into something epic.” Khan’s creation, the MegaFaces project, turned visitors’ early moments at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games not only epic, but downright monumental.

The 21,500-square-foot pavilion is a cube with a kinetic façade that can recreate the faces of visitors in three dimensions and at 3,500 times the size. The moving façade has been likened to a digital Mount Rushmore, showing sculptural faces of three visitors at a time. Photo booths inside the building take scans of visitors’ faces, transferring 3-D facial impressions to an estimated 11,000 actuators in the façade. The tip of each actuator is a translucent sphere that contains an RBG-LED light; a fabric membrane is stretched over the facade to give a smooth surface to the changing forms. The system controlling the actuators moves them up and down to match the “map” of the 3-D facial impression, creating an astounding 26-foot sculptural portrait of the subject’s face.

Khan worked closely with iart, a Swiss engineering firm, to achieve the memorable façade portraits. “The challenge in our case was the development of a system that would meet Asif’s requirements of the project in relation to speed, usability and image quality,” said Valentin Spiess, iart CEO. “The process will be as fast and simple as using a commercial photo booth.” Client MegaFon sponsored the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, using the tagline “Create your own Olympic history.” Anastasia Orkina, chief marketing officer at MegaFon, expressed satisfaction with the pavilion’s historic impact, calling it “not just a remarkable work of architecture, but an important metaphor for bringing people together” For more details, visit Khan’s website.

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