At the turn of the century, Atlantic City was the place to be. If you watched Boardwalk Empire, you know what I’m talking about: glitz, glamour, and gambling made Atlantic City the resort town of choice for New Yorkers of all income levels. But by the turn of the next century (as in 12 years ago), Atlantic City was a shell of what it once was, due to poverty and urban blight.
The Atlantic City Alliance, a newly formed coalition of business owners and urban advocates, is working to restore the city to its former glory. Between a major rebranding, a $30 million dollar tourism campaign, and a newly redesigned master plan, the Alliance is moving fast. And last night, moments after the last firework crackled over the boardwalk, the group unveiled yet another initiative: Duality, a permanent light show that uses 3-D mapping to transform the facade of the city’s historic landmark, Boardwalk Hall.
The team’s multimedia director, Nelson de Robles, tells Co.Design that his team had to act fast after winning the commission this spring. “Normally, a permanent installation like this would take us a year to develop. We had four months, in this case … or three. It’s a blur.” In just a few months, the 90-person studio conceptualized and rendered a psychedelic animation of Boardwalk Hall using 3-D modeling software. When it premiered on July 4th, powerful projectors and spotlights mapped the animation onto the actual facade, transforming it into a psychedelic light show complete with an original dubstep-y score. And while this kind of facade manipulation certainly isn’t new, the 83-year-old Atlantic Hall posed some unusual challenges.
“Everything is custom,” explains de Robles, who was preparing for the preview of Duality when we spoke. “This project was really different from anything we’ve ever done. We’re in a historical building, so we had to be very careful about attaching any equipment to the facade.” To make matters more complicated, Boardwalk Hall is mere steps away from the ocean. “We had to be very careful,” he adds. “The wiring, lenses, and projectors have to withstand salt water, storms, even hurricanes.”
The show clocks in at 8.5 minutes, and will run twice an hour on a permanent schedule. "It’s a story about acceptance and discovery," says de Robles. "It’s not at all about Atlantic City’s history, but it does connect with the personality of the place,” he said, speaking hours before the show’s first official run. Is he excited to see how it looks? “Very!”