Planting the seed
The North Point Mall in Alpharetta, GA was having a problem that a lot of traditional retail spaces are having these days, how do you create memorable, shareable, and inspiring experiences for visitors? What does it take to transform a retail space into a magical environment? At Britelite that is our specialty.
Britelite and its partner, NatureMaker, proposed a dramatic interactive solution: a 35 ft tall tree with individually addressable illuminated leaves, able to come alive and adapt to the seasons, special events and holidays. A project of this magnitude requires bringing together some unique skills, everything from the meticulous craftsmanship of the tree, manufacturing of custom designed lighting fixtures, and a software ecosystem to keep it feeling immersive, impressive and fresh.
Making it Grow
The Center Court at Northpoint mall is a beautiful central location that is designed to encourage community and relaxation in a busy and sometimes overwhelming retail environment. The LED tree installation became the focal point of the center court, a visual embodiment of the community that Northpoint Center was trying to create.
To make something that captured the attention and imagination of visitors we knew that that scale of the tree had to be instantly impressive. It is over 35 feet tall and roughly 40 feet in diameter. The tree features over 77,000 individually addressable LEDs housed inside almost 10,000 leaves on 648 total branches.
We worked with our partner Naturemaker to create the most realistic trunk and branch fabrications possible. We wanted to balance the technology and LED look of the leaves with a very natural feeling tree structure and that is just what Naturemaker was able to achieve. As soon as we saw the test materials they sent over, we knew that this was going to be one of the most impressive installations we have had the pleasure of creating.
We installed the tree over the course of two weeks in October with a fantastic team of partners to help make this complex and beautiful installation a reality. We wanted to make sure that not only was this a captivating, instantly recognizable feature, but that it was built for long term reliability and safety in this very public environment. While this is a highly custom installation we tried to make sure that the key foundational components would be easy to replace in case of any issues, because this installation is such a key part of the mall ecosystem that any downtime is unacceptable.
Making the leaves
To make something that we knew would be as awe inspiring as we had imagined, we had to go to the source and start with completely purpose designed components. The leaves of the tree are a totally original design, engineered in partnership with Britelite’s LED supplier. The leaves are designed around a custom circuit board with 8 LED elements, diffusing the light in pleasing ways that works in the challenging ambient lighting conditions of the venue.
We iterated quickly through various different designs, using CAD files to create 3D printed prototypes that let us explore different shapes, materials and assembly strategies.
An especially challenging part of the project was designing the branches on which the leaves are mounted: given the public setting of the tree, it was important that wiring be entirely enclosed. Britelite worked with a manufacturing partner to design a fully enclosed metal branch structure, and coordinated logistics with the LED supplier to ensure that they shipped fully assembled branches.
Bringing the tree to life with software
As with any Mall space, it is the type of location that locals visit over and over again. Knowing this it was a key requirement that the animations on the tree remain fresh and interesting, with plenty of variety for repeat visitors. In order to do that, Britelite designed and implemented software that would automatically cycle through many different lighting states, creating fresh experiences that are not tied to a regular schedule. Even if guests show up to view the tree at the same time everyday it will never look the same.
The Fall leaves pattern is one of the launch animations, evoking feelings of changing leaves and seasons that mirrors the Southern landscape.
A peach tree pattern honors the tree’s home in Georgia.
We created this pattern that evoked cherry blossoms, and since cherry blossom season is an important event in Atlanta, we wanted to celebrate that part of the culture.
Britelite designed and developed a custom lighting control system, that allowed for realtime previews of animations on the tree, as well as directly controlling it. We used advanced C++ frameworks for speed and efficiency. An advanced LED control protocol (DDP) allows configuring the LED controllers and reading their status, essential for a project of this scale.
The system is built by combining several basic animation patterns into more complex animations, and then defining an animation program for the tree that incorporates these. These animation programs are based on seasons, holiday or special event, with a number of additional animations that can be triggered randomly over the course of a day.
New animation programs can be created without the need for further programming, so the tree can evolve over time, and seasonal programs can be added or enhanced.
Britelite developed a content management system that allows creating, modifying and scheduling animations for the tree. For example seasonal and holiday programs can be planned in advance, and custom programs created to support brand specific promotions.
This content management system uses a simple web-based interface that can be used on a tablet while standing next to the tree, in order to preview changes directly.
Building the tree
The actual installation of the tree required a lot of coordination between Britelite, Naturemaker, and the facilities team at North Point. In order to make this happen, meticulous project management and record keeping was essential. A “dress rehearsal” was set up, with the tree fully assembled at Naturemaker’s site in Carlsbad, California. Once we were confident that the project would be exactly what we wanted it was time to pack it up and send it to location in Georgia. The Georgia installation was a seamless experience thanks to the expertise of all the onsite teams and it came together exactly as we had hoped.
We knew that this would be an impressive project, but we could not imagine how amazing it would look installed until we started to see it come together. Even during the construction process, visitors to the center were enamored and engaged, taking pictures and sharing socially.
Merchants near the tree expressed a great deal of enthusiasm, and could think of multiple opportunities to make use of the tree. For example, the jewelry store next to the tree is actually ordained and able to perform weddings, and the tree is a perfect setting them for this. We would love to see our installation used to enrich all types of events that take place in this public gathering space.
The Northpoint Tree was a resounding success and we are so grateful to our clients and partners for helping to make this a flagship project we can all be proud of. At Britelite we love to create beauty and wonder in the world and seeing the public reaction to this project proved that we were able to create special moments that will stay with visitors long after they leave the mall. We look forward to a continued partnership with Nature Maker and hopefully we will get to make more of these beautiful installations in the future. If you are in Alpharetta, GA stop by the Northpoint mall and check out this amazing installation. You won’t regret the trip.
In our experience
We’ve found that activating public spaces through the use of interactive technologies can have a significant payoff in terms of visitor impact. The Bespoke event hub at San Francisco’s Westfield Mall continues to entertain and engage even casual visitors with its interactive video walls.
Another high impact public space implemented by Britelite is Amgen’s Immersive Research Center, which positively impacts employees, partners and other visitors to the facility.
While the North Point tree is brand new, other experiences of large scale public art give a hint of what is possible:
- – The Bay Lights in San Francisco led to some businesses along the Embarcadero reporting up to a 30% increase in business
- – Olafur Eliasson’s Waterfalls in New York led to an estimated impact of $200m on the local economy while they were installed
- – Teamlab’s “Borderless” exhibition in Tokyo is now the most visited art exhibit dedicated to a single artist, with 25% of visitors travelling internationally with the primary intent to see it
Using interactive and technology to revitalize office and commercial spaces makes a lot of sense!
Activate your space
With the North Point tree, Britelite is proud to present a project that is both visually striking and helps the organization achieve its purpose.
The beauty and scale of the illuminated tree already adds a sense of wonder to the space. The ability to program animations on the tree in response to seasons, holidays, special events and promotions enables the client to further drive engagement and encourage visitor traffic.
If you’re excited by the combination of:
- – Ambitious design and flawless execution
- – Visual impact
- – Alignment with an organization’s business goals