Nested Density

Proliferation of Projection Mapping in Urban Contexts



Photo of Wendy Cox, Architect

Wendy Cox, Architect

Associate Professor

Norwich University



Projecting imagery onto building facades is not only becoming a marketing necessity for successful urban spectacles but is also altering social urban experiences. Architects are being asked to incorporate projection mapping capabilities into their designs and thus altering design processes and goals. These changes will influence the future form and materiality of facades and urban contexts, altering the look and feel of urban environments. Image mappings projected onto building facades can also provide additional layers of attributes creating new opportunities for engaging the viewer and viewed in new relationships with individual buildings and urban experiences overall. For example, the Federation of Industries of the State (FIESP) of São Paulo, Brazil, housing business groups supporting industry interests, became the site of a riot. Transformed temporarily, years later, the same building became a partner with the people through an interactive projection mapping. A person’s movements on the street became projected in building scale onto the FIESP front facade for all in the vicinity to enjoy. Building scale mappings provide a communal witness and visual complexity that can heighten and thicken urban experience. With its proliferation, building mappings may also fight for attention through increasingly dynamic and colorful imagery resulting in an oversaturation of stimuli. At least, in the beginning, this may require the need for a dulling of the visual senses, prompting versions of Georg Simmel’s blasé attitude to survive in future urban environments. In postulating potential implications of the increasing demand for projection mappings in urban environments, this essay engages the framework of Marshall McLuhan’s analysis on the intervention of technological extensions within society. What does this technological extension enable? Or phrased in McLuhan’s media theory terms, what is projection mapping’s message?


Projecting imagery onto building facades is not only becoming a marketing necessity for successful urban spectacles but is also altering the social urban experience. For example, the winter holiday spectacle

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Medium and Message

In McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man the "“message" of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern this introduces into human affairs.”*1 Often

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Photography as Medium

For assessing the ability of projection mapping to enable alteration in scale, pace or pattern in human existence, a comparison with the precursor imaging technology, photography, is proposed. In Susan

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Projection Mapping as Medium

Projection mappings onto buildings extend human experience in scale, pace, and pattern. They are purely public. This enables differing human experiences, even if the mediums of film, TV, and video

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Projection Mapping Message

For exploring a potential message of projection mapping, three related conceptual areas are proposed for framing this investigation: artifice, rupture and cosmopolitan. For McLuhan, “the ‘content’ of any medium blinds

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At present, projection mappings remain relative anomalies in the urban experience. With the pace of increasing interest in urban projection mappings, this technology will likely continue to proliferate. Projection mapping

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Rights and Permissions

Cox, Wendy. “Through the Looking Glass: Or Does Your Facade Have a Facade.” GlassCon Global Proceedings, FCA International, (2018): 81-84., (accessed 11 30 2019). (accessed July 10, 2019). (access July 1, 2019).

Levinson, Paul. Digital McLuhan: a guide to information millennium. Routledge, 1999.

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Ginko Press, 2013. Accessed July 1, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Presner, Todd Samuel. ‘Hegel’s Philosophy of World History via Sebald’s Imaginary Ruins: A Contrpuntal Critique of the “New Space” of Modernity,’ Ruins of Modernity, Julia Hell, and Andreas Schönle, eds. Duke University Press, 2010. 182.

Rose, Frank. “Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall is Technodreaming,” NYTimes, Art & Design, September 14, 2018.

Sennett, Richard. Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018.

Sontag, Susan. On Photography. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.