Look up from your cellphone and your pixelated field of vision stretches to the skyline. Electronic signs are everywhere, from billboards to taxis, and now buildings are becoming digital canvasses. Some are festooned with digital signs, some integrate lights and media to define space and add ornamentation, some combine those approaches. But with that expanded design palette, and the theoretical discussions about the relationship between media and architecture, comes the need to parse complex legalese, since digital facades potentially fall under regulations and ordinances governing signage and lighting.
Digital facades, sometimes referred to as media facades, are nothing new, of course. Recent examples, such as UNStudio's Galleria Department Store (2004) in Seoul, trace their lineage through the earliest neon signs and architects' responses to 20th century media and computerization. But cheaper display technology, and the money to be made from digital outdoor advertising, suggest that more buildings will incorporate digital signage. Noncommercial uses of lighting, digital screens, and other programmable, reconfigurable elements are also on the rise.