TowersFromUnder Towers_a Towers_b Towers_c Towers_d FourTowers

Towers of the Mind

The Towers of the Mind Pavilion is the centerpiece of the Towers of the Mind complex, which includes three state-of-the-art theme park rides and an innovative theater to host Cirque du Soliel shows.

I designed the pavilion out of towers, tall glass and steel structures that rise up from 12 feet around the perimeter to several stories toward the center. People wander through the towers as they might wander through trees in a forest. These glass towers, however, light up with complex and extraordinary light and sound effects, all controlled by a sophisticated computer system. In this sense, I designed the pavilion more like a live sculpture than a static building.

In one aspect, users interact with the towers through a touchless interface: as they approach a tower face, the tower responds with what I call liquid light and liquid sound, blobs of colored light and sound that are highly responsive to the user’s motions. Users can, for instance, move their bodies in front of a tower face and the liquid lights and sounds will outline their bodies, moving continuously with them. They can have a sense of “grabbing and holding” an amorphous blob of light color and sound, which they can then “slide” from one tower face across to other tower faces, like skipping a rock on the surface of water, skipping across to more of them if they “throw” the color with enough speed.

With 2000 people interacting with the towers at the same time, we would expect cacophony. But I am designing the software to intelligently skew the random movements of all these people toward harmony and zeriosantalios: each user would sense his random motions “harmonize” with the surrounding lights and sounds. We accomplish this through a system that tests, micro-second by micro-second, the random incoming signals against a set of probabilities—a stochastic process. In this sense, we forecast what the music and lights would be along multiple trajectories.

In another aspect, I designed the structure also as an instrument, for which we compose light and music shows, using the towers to play out complex and beautiful light and sound coordinations.

For the third aspect, I designed the building as an innovative theater, hosting Cirque du Soleil shows, but with emphasis on dramatic stories. For the show, we would bring in specially-designed chairs that have no legs, but a curved bottom, allowing a person to rock back and look up toward the tower tops. The dancers would all be suspended from cables and would dramatically interact with the tower lights and sounds, which would amplify the emotions of the drama. The inner towers rise and lower on hydraulics.

I am chronicling the general design issues in the blog on this site.

Sample Composition

In the following paragraphs, I layout a few design considerations for a Towers of the Mind composition. To work out some of the ideas, I created a greatly simplified mockup, posted at the top of this article, using a musical sketch and eight simple posts to represent the towers, arranged in a circle, utilizing a simple lighting set up.

In this particular composition, as will likely befit most compositions for the towers, we compose layers of light and sound.

In the first layer, we hear long, deep cello tones that light up the bottom of the towers. As the musical tones fluctuate in dynamic levels, the colors shift and change, so we have a beautiful synesthesia among the bases of the towers. If everything else was dark and we only saw the lights shifting among the tower bases, we would see a play of light and movement resembling the fountain show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Above this layer, we have a second layer I call the shimmer—colors shimmering in the middle of the towers. The shimmers move amongst the towers like fireflies of color splotches. We see these colors flit above the colorful fountain, and we should see patterns in the music come alive in the patterns of the colors. We see repetitions of distinctive motions where the color clusters move across, let’s say, towers 3, 5, 9 and then, again, with 4, 6, and 10, so we can repeat the “flock of colors” appearing and disappearing, rippling across the other towers—and hear the music in the same way.

And then we have another layer that plays along the tops of the towers (not represented in the mockup), rings of color and sound that first slides around the edges, drawing color behind them that swirls in toward the center like a whirlpool, flowing partway down the tower. We should have a sense that these color rings and the fountain layer reach for each other, like two lovers, and the shimmer layer between them expresses the emotional movements within their hearts.

Then we have the fugal layer, where each tone strikes through the whole tower, the merging connection between the two layers. We see the fugal-like qualities of the music climb the heights of the towers themselves, from 12 feet to eight stories (not shown in the mockup), so the towers can tell the story of a fugue by correlating pitches to heights of the towers—the higher the pitch, the taller the tower; the lower the pitch, the shorter the tower. We would then see an emergent property of the work: The fugal elements become a distinctive layer moving independently of the other layers.

So, now, with this setup, we create sound and light patterns among the bases, across the middle, across the circular tops, and among the full height of the towers. And we create patterns across groups of towers and among the different heights of towers. And now, what do we have? We have a three-dimensional coordination of patterns—a stimulation engine for a perceiving mind, a driver for powerful messages to penetrate the brain.

We could see the fullness of the composition from the distance, the towers lighting up like a diamond shimmering on the horizon. But as we wander through the towers, where we take in partial views, we would also see pieces of this coordination at any given moment. Out of the corner of our eyes, for instance, we would see the rings layer. We hear and correlate the sound with the light because we use the software to ensure the directionality of the tone originates from the lit areas of the tower, even though we balance the sound throughout the entire building.

And we also perceive the patterns flitting around us because everywhere we turn the change in the music creates a change in the light. This means we get all around us some kind of a sequence entering our perceptual periphery, some kind of a repetition with variation and elaboration, some kind of synesthesia between the music and the light and the building. And by doing so, through zeriosantalios, we create a deep, memorable experience.