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Edward
January 21st, 2002, 02:06 PM
From New Yorker Magazine (http://www.newyorker.com)

A MORGAN STANLEY SUNRISE, A LEHMAN BROTHERS MOON

Issue of 2002-01-28
Posted 2002-01-21

When Morgan Stanley sold Lehman Brothers its new glass tower at 745 Seventh Avenue (http://www.wirednewyork.com/745seventh.htm), just north of Times Square, last fall, there wasn't much for the new owner to do except switch the name above the door. What works for one mega financial firm pretty much works for another. That principle applies even to the building's most conspicuous feature, a two-and-a-half-story-high electronic sign. The Morgan Stanley sign, which is now the Lehman Brothers sign, is a generation ahead of such high-voltage Times Square showpieces as the cylindrical Nasdaq sign on the Condé Nast Building (http://www.wirednewyork.com/conde_nast.htm), the ABC news ticker and television screen at 1500 Broadway, and the series of tall screens jutting out from the new Reuters Building (http://www.wirednewyork.com/reuters.htm).

The Lehman Brothers sign doesn't stick out or cover up the building. It is the building, or, at least, the base of the building. Three horizontal strips of screen run across the façade, from Forty-ninth to Fiftieth Street, and there is a larger central panel above the entrance, like an electronic bas-relief. The sign was designed not by Artkraft Strauss, the company that has more or less owned the Times Square sign market for generations, but by Imaginary Forces, which isn't really in the sign business at all. Imaginary Forces is best known for doing title sequences for films such as "Harry Potter" and "Band of Brothers" and for producing short films that are designed to rev up the crowds before Rangers and Knicks games at Madison Square Garden.

One of the architects of 745 Seventh Avenue (http://www.wirednewyork.com/745seventh.htm), Kevin Kennon, brought in Imaginary Forces to do the sign. "It wasn't just slapped onto the building—it is a layer of the architecture," said Mikon van Gastel, who was in charge of the project for Imaginary Forces. Van Gastel, a Dutchman with dyed-blond hair, said he had been inspired by the colored lights on top of the Empire State Building (http://www.wirednewyork.com/empire.htm). He wanted to use technology, he said, to create a series of images that would constantly change the façade's appearance. "It's structured like television, with themes, interstitials, transitions," he said.

If you design title sequences for a living, you become an expert at finding simple visual symbols that convey complex messages quickly, and that is what Imaginary Forces tried to do here. "People walk by for ten seconds or pass in a cab for three seconds," van Gastel said. "It has to be a nonlinear story."

Morgan Stanley envisioned the sign as a chance to polish its reputation, so van Gastel proposed a series of images on various themes—sunrises, piggy banks, globes, traders at work—that would swirl and zip and zoom all the time. "We wanted it to show the heart of Morgan Stanley, not the rational side—to be like an X-ray into the building," van Gastel said.

There was a sequence of bridges, presumably to remind passersby that Morgan Stanley spans the world, and another of green apples, which may or may not suggest that Morgan Stanley makes things grow. The sunrise sequence runs every morning at six; moons appear in the middle of the night. At times, the sign resembles one of those television commercials that are full of beautiful random images; you are never sure whether the commercial is for a dot-com or a brokerage firm or a headache remedy. Still, the sign is visually stunning, like an IMAX screen in the middle of a Manhattan street, and it all but dematerializes the façade, turning it from an object of glass and metal into a cavalcade of constantly changing colors and shapes. Here, more than anywhere else in Times Square, electronic imagery really does become architecture.

Van Gastel and his colleagues actually prepared a more complex program for the sign than the one that is now running. Originally, there was to have been sound, and words like "reward" and "imagine" and "connect" and "invest" would float intermittently across the screen—to make explicit the link between apples and moons and the work that goes on at Morgan Stanley. But then the sign became the property of Lehman Brothers. Lehman may be in the same business as Morgan Stanley and just as inclined to like bridges and piggy banks, but Lehman asked van Gastel to make some changes anyway. It turns out that it is one thing to take over a building from one of your competitors without renovating it and quite another to take over its advertising. Bill Ahearn, a Lehman spokesman, said that the changes would concern the mood words that float across the screen. "There are certain words that were part of Morgan Stanley's branding that we are going to take out," he said. "And we're adding a few from our branding, but most people won't really notice." Last week, the sign was in abstraction mode—no words or sounds, just the usual apples and globes.

Van Gastel, for his part, is happy to see the sign become more abstract. "You could basically input anything, like just colors, shifting and changing," he said. "It would feel like the building was breathing—the colors could even shift according to how the market was doing."

— Paul Goldberger



More signs on Light sign of 745 Seventh Avenue (http://www.wirednewyork.com/real_estate/745seventh/745seventh_sign.htm) page of Wired New York.


The light sign of 745 Seventh Avenue (http://www.wirednewyork.com/real_estate/745seventh/default.htm) in January of 2002.

http://www.wirednewyork.com/real_estate/745seventh/images/745seventh_sign_12jan02.jpg

tmg
October 22nd, 2003, 11:22 AM
What is the ugly, permanent-looking scaffolding around the base of this building for? I understand the need for it around the Empire State Building, but I don't see why it's necessary here.

emmeka
October 22nd, 2003, 12:26 PM
Huh?

What scaffolding?

Derek2k3
September 4th, 2010, 09:42 AM
A nice illuminated lantern top that they never turn on. What's with these banks--afraid to show off?


http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4133/4953690363_c554cbd65b_o.jpg
antongorbov (http://www.flickr.com/photos/antongorbov/4953690363/sizes/o/in/photostream/)

BrooklynLove
September 4th, 2010, 11:34 PM
Barclays is moving toward installing signage on the top, which would be illuminated Barclays branding.

Tectonic
August 27th, 2012, 10:05 PM
Easy quiz. Can you name the building's shadow seen on 745 7th in this picture.

http://img198.imageshack.us/img198/6565/dsc5521sn.jpg

©tectonic