Vision To Visuals: Small Country, Global Focus

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It’s not too often that we get asked by consulates of countries to encapsulate their past, present and future legacies into dynamic visual experiences, so I was quite intrigued in October 2008 when the Principality of Monaco asked us to do just that. Now Monaco always has conjured for me a vision of royalty, luxury and even decadence, so imagine my surprise when I found out that their goal was to communicate Monaco’s rich environmental heritage and to educate viewers about conservation issues. Having recently launched our company-wide sustainability initiative, this is a subject close to my heart, and I was more than eager to dedicate my team’s expertise to helping realize this vision.

Their design partner had envisioned a traveling exhibition titled “Monaco’s Environmental Stewardship Gallery” to convey the broad environmental commitment of the country by contextualizing their visual content into the theme of “yesterday, today and tomorrow.” They wanted to create three cylindrical structures with embedded images and video, creating interactive experiences for the viewers. As you all know, I’m never one to shy away from a challenge, but this concept required us to figure out everything between drawings on paper and fabricated cylindrical structures, which needed to be all-encompassing with lighting, video, images, text and, most importantly, be both flexible for transportation yet rigid for installation in remote sites.

We started as always by doing a feasibility study of the design submitted to us and by identifying aspects of the design we’d need to modify in order to realize both the aesthetic and practical considerations of the projects. The first challenge was to determine what materials we could use to create flexible cylindrical structures that would be strong enough to hold the weight of LCD monitors embedded within them. Each cylinder was five feet in diameter and eight feet high, and each needed to be illuminated from within. The project was a lighting, multimedia, industrial-engineering, graphic and engineering challenge all in one.

monancoFortunately, my expert design team immediately started by translating drawings proposed to us by the client into AutoCAD files, which gave us an understanding of the critical three-dimensional aspects of the structures. We realized that we would need to create a very strong metal structure for these cylinders, but still keep it collapsible so that after each exhibit, the structure could be shipped flat to the next destination. Having worked with custom-extruded aluminum systems over many years, we devised these cylindrical structures in a short time and moved to lighting and facade substrate.

In order to back-illuminate these cylinders without the cumbersome tube bulbs that define most traditional lightboxes, we used a string of LED lights and set them in such a way that they dispersed light evenly to create the softest and most beautiful glow through layers of acrylic panels on which we had printed the graphic supplied by the client. By using LED lights, we reduced the power usage of each cylinder to just 100 watts—one eighth of what we would have used with traditional lighting. These printed acrylics were then bent to be inset into the curved metal structures. We laser-cut niches into these acrylic panels for LCD panels and mounted DVD players at the center of each structure.

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The final outcome was spectacular. These structures installed looked like jewel boxes, aglow with the soft radiating light of the LEDs and dynamic moving video images.

On the client’s website, the exhibit was described as follows: “Combining audio and visual techniques including short videos, text, graphic design, kaleidoscopic experiences, lighting and architectural elements, they [exhibit structures] seamlessly project a cool image of a hot topic; via video, Prince Albert II outlines his commitment to the environment; and from the Hollywood-based special effects team who worked on The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man, are some amazing visual effects.”

There’s nothing more gratifying for me than to see a project that comes through our door in the form of a drawing and leaves our premises fully fabricated into structures and installed on-site where people can experience it in reality. This project was especially close to my heart because it showed me how much of a leadership role even a small country can play toward educating and committing to sustainability in the world. It’s heartening to know that Monaco is an early signatory of the Kyoto Protocol and has implemented innovative waste reuse, water preservation and energy efficiency measures, including free public electric recharging stations. Prince Albert II runs his own environmental foundation, which addresses the challenges of climate change and renewable energies, loss of biodiversity and improving universal access to clean water and fighting desertification. They have helped such environmentalists as Wangari Maathai of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya.

Monaco truly is a “small country, with a global focus.” I’m proud that we were able to offer them our expertise in realizing their commitment to global awareness on such an important issue.

Baldev Duggal, president and founder of Duggal, has been innovating visual solutions for image-makers for more than 40 years. Credited with building and designing the industry’s first dip-and-dunk processing machine, Duggal has maintained his status as a leader in the imaging business and is heralded for outstanding service by consumer and trade magazines alike. With digital capabilities reaching worldwide, his headquarters covers a block on West 23rd Street in New York City.

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