Slow Screen — A kinetic façade stretching over the entire front of the Museum of Digital Art. It is made of 805 mechanical pixels which can display patterns, images and text – at a very slow speed.
To visualise how the Slow Screen works we had to sometimes speed up the footage by 800 percent. Music by Estonian composer legend Arvo Pärt.
It was a difficult place to be for Zurich's Museum of Digital Art. Being already in construction and realising that there is the need to control the amount of daylight coming into the museum. Some exhibitions need to be dark, some require daylight. And, being a non-profit organisation, having almost no funds to tackle this problem.

The first working prototype, built with "pixels" made from cardboard and filled with rice to simulate the final weight.
With that in mind we came up with an idea which, to be honest, might sound a bit crazy at first. That idea was to build a massive screen made from 805 physical pixels, weighing over a ton and stretching over 100 square metres, and develop a system to rotate each of the mechanical pixels individually in order to regulate and diffuse the light that comes through the windows. Additionally, this would allow the museum to use this large screen to communicate short messages.

Installing and wiring all 115 motors.

Doing it the Chinese way: low budgets, but time and many hands.

Assembling the 805 pixels stretching over the ten large windows of the ground floor of Zurich's oldest high-rise with the use of four production lines.
To pull this off it was necessary to come up with a very simple mechanic that needs little resources to control this many mechanical elements. Which meant that to use one motor per pixel wasn't really an option. Etter Studio invented a system which can position multiple pixels in a row with only one motor. By alternating the direction of rotation, positioning each pixel starting with the lowest pixel of each row and then working its way up. The trade-off was speed, each physical pixel had to be positioned one after the other, resulting in a frame rate of about ten images per hour – a neat feature in times where digital contents are consumed like fast food.

The Slow Screen, taking over the entire front of the ground floor.
The other crucial part to make the Slow Screen possible was to execute this project the way we've learned from our Chinese business partners: Having a long time line – which allows that people work on it in between other jobs – to keep costs down. And including friends, family and the entire staff of the museum to assemble the screen. Installing 805 individual pixels takes a lot of time, but if you have many hands it can be done in a couple of days.

The finished Slow Screen.
Once we had the basics sorted we teamed up with the talented Thibault Brevet and the experts of local engineering company Greenliff. Together, and with the help of many others, we designed, planned and pre-manufactured the Slow Screen over several month and assembled it during one week, while the museum was closed.
In November 2017 the Slow Screen was awarded the Swiss Design Award for best Spacial Design: "The kinetic installation Slow Screen impresses first of all with its specially developed, sophisticated technology, and then again in view of its perfect fulfilment of its immediate objective – to control the incoming light in the exhibition rooms of the Museum of Digital Art. But the crucial quality of the installation, in the jury’s opinion, is the associated added value it reveals, aesthetically and in the form of communication, outside the museum’s opening hours. This is when the characteristically slowmoving Screen transforms itself into a display for patterns, images and texts, whose gradual appearance and subsequent dissolution can be contemplated with pleasure."
Idea, Design, Production
Digital Arts Association
Caroline Hirt
Johanna Taubenreuter
Lucas Uhlmann
Fidel Morf
Moritz Schuler
Ivo Hirt
Sabrina Cerea
Markus Pilz
Quang Thai
Beat Schuler
Irene Sibler
Caroline Lerch
Alexa Jeanne Kubser
Chantal Schuler
Quang Thai
Gomti Etter-Ravji
Marc Dörflinger
Justine Brevet
Dynamo Zürich
Max Schuler
Urban Etter
Patrick Ammann
Sheraton Zurich
Alexander Houben
Mattia Torsello
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