Public Design and Platform Media Facade of Communication

Platform media facade of communication in the city

New platform is now required for a city image that incorporates the storytelling based on the regional/historical identity as the need to improve the aged downtown (original downtown) is being emphasized.

Therefore, there are more municipal governments that desire to re-brand various parts of cities that are aiming towards the fourth industrial cities for citizens and visitors who come to cities. Cities are scrambling to develop the public design system and to transform into future cities. Panaplex-type bus shelters are being installed as DID (Digital Infotainment Display) that enable mobile-linked interactive functions, and the city maps are being implemented in various parts of the cities as AI information that is guided by idols, along with experiential AR/VR media. Although it may be partial, ecosystem evolution that uses media that aims for comprehensive media in key hub cities is transforming cities in line with the hyper-connected era through activities such as pilot operation of unmanned vehicles.

City people are more quickly accessing information in real time through mobile means rather than through the news, and they are familiar with mass media that is installed as signage on streets. I can find the location of the bus that I need to get through mobile devices, and bilateral media that enables interaction that is not a simple unilateral media is transforming modern cities. Expectations for the future and another expansion of media is heightening for citizens who live in the digital era in line with the paradigm shift in the perception of citizens who accept changes, such as AR/VR/MR, MUSEUM GUIDE APP, NEW MEDIA, and AI docent robots.

Now, contents have expanded from showing-type Eyes-on content to experiential Hands-on contents, followed by emotion-triggering Minds-on contents, and with the new wave of the digital era, the entire city is embarking on a transformation to communication platform for the future. Media facade that used to be one of the city landscapes is gaining spotlight as a massive space that embodies the color, story, culture and art of cities as ancillary installations of simple buildings, artworks and as a communication platform.

Modern media infrastructure that developed from papyrus poster of the BC era

The first-ever poster of humanity that we learned about in elementary schools is papyrus of Egypt. Poster made from papyrus reeds transformed into cloth, into paper, followed by POP print-outs, and technology advanced further to become panaplex with embedded lighting that replaced the show window mannequin. Panaplex has been expanded to an electronic display. The origin of media infrastructure can be found in posters. From the perspective of contents, the electronic display and media facade vary in terms of identity on whether or not contents of commercial advertising is transmitted or not. Media facade can be thought to replace posters from the BC era in the sense that it is an extension of something being shown to the public.

Urban Landscape Division of the Design Policy Bureau at Seoul Metropolitan Government is setting and applying standards to install and manage media infrastructure for efficient operation and expansion of media facade that changed the paradigm of urban nighttime landscape.

Media facade is transcending landscapes and aesthetics of buildings to expand its usage as the debut model for video artists and a massive campus that embodies both art and culture. Also, number of use cases are increasing to include media facade equipped with responsive functions that allow bilateral interactions, or they are installed together with sound infrastructure. This is because the role of media facade is growing as a platform to communicate with citizens, which is a factor of public design. With the advancement in technology, it became possible for media facade that used to be a representation of nighttime landscape to freely implement brightness (resolution) and resolution by adding W (white) on top of RGB (Red, Green Blue) of devices. LED display enables the implementation of realistic videos through high resolution display elements that realize 4K~8K visualization on facade of buildings where it is difficult to install electronic displays in a concealed manner. Glass wall that can be installed instead of an outer wall, beam project and LCD digital media that is installed instead of artworks inside buildings are exhibiting other flexible advantages and media facade that acts as the landscape lighting. Digital media is being used more and more every day to be installed inside subways or subway stations where general citizens pass by, or pillars or void spaces of public spaces, and it is going beyond the difference in indoor/outdoor space and the boundary of daytime/nighttime to replace the function of posters of the past.

Pillar of public design, media facade

Media facade consists of transmitted contents and boasts formative beauty through seasonally-planned contents such as storytelling that embodies the history of art, promotion of regional characteristics and public announcement together with information that is provided through emotional interaction with the audience. Media facade videos shown at the main branches of Shinsegae Department Store and Lotte Department Store already settled in as must-visit travel attractions that tourists from both home and abroad visit by being armed with artistic and public nature, trendiness and wit. Media facade is a successful case in Korea that can be enjoyed even in Korea without visiting the Times Square in US. Media that allows us to feel the utmost trendiness exists in downtown of Korea as well.

Therefore, media facade has to be managed from the perspective of public design and following management factors are proposed.



Contents Vitalization

As a role of public media, artistic nature of contents, public universality, ethnicity, and race should not be denigrated, and provocative contents or colors should be avoided. Excessively quick speed should be avoided, and shape and formative beauty should be expressed.

Various artists should be able to participate, and at the same time, holistic sentiment has to be considered through contents deliberation and such, and usage of contents should be expanded from nighttime contents to daytime/nighttime contents


Remote control system has to be strengthened based on advanced installation, and issues are resolved so that professionals can operate and manage the system.

Synchronization and comprehensive management function should be strengthened.

Continuous operation 

Structural investment and participation shall be guaranteed as public media.

Method of continuously providing high quality contents shall be turned into manuals.

Support with enhanced operational cost and contents development cost is required.

Public value

Contents shall be gathered to ensure communication with the public in consideration of the future value that incorporates technology, and bilateral participation process needs to be developed. These have to be provided in consideration of the interactions with wearables or mobile devices.

Total art, Total platform media facade

As seen from the media facade case of Seoul Square building located in Jung-gu, Seoul, as media facade transcended the concept of a sculpture or video art to symbolize the image of the city, facade of buildings is being used actively for various reasons, and it went beyond landscape lighting to embody practicality from the perspective of artistic contents, decoration and transmitted video.

Media facade is an example of landscape lighting that is different from billboard advertisement, and it is being clearly differentiated from billboard advertisement, a form of digital advertisement, in terms of size, installation method and operation method, and it has been managed so that it does not deviate to become an advertisement media pursuant to strict deliberation standard. Urban Landscape Division of the Design Policy Bureau at Seoul Metropolitan Government is planning to establish and enforce 'Criteria on installation and management of media infrastructure' starting on January 2023. Video contents of media facade should display works that have artistic value, and it is based on non-advertising. It is managed so that the video that is displayed is not too quick in speed, flickers repeatedly or exhibits severe changes in brightness.

Operation of media facade for public design, and not for public interest design

If we were to look into the progress of the 'Media Art Exhibition (미디어아트 )' of Pyeongchang Olympics among media facade projects of Seoul Square Building, 9 artists participated to display 5 artworks that have gone through deliberation by the Good Light Committee of the Seoul Metropolitan Government. It is true that deliberation evaluation mainly focused on the perspective of landscape lighting and not the artistic nature of exhibited works. Media facade started as landscape lighting to minimize glare from emission and aesthetics of the nighttime city and applies various measurement criteria for popularity and artistic nature as the form of installation that is exposed to the public without any adjustments. This is because the form of media facade is the landscape lighting while video is the combination of culture and art, as well as the result of technology. 

[Image 1 Left] Media facade at the data center of Incheon City Hall, Work of Korean media artist ‘Cha Dong-hun’     
[Image 2 Right] Cylindrical media facade of Songdo G Tower, Work of UK pop artist ‘Philip Colbert’ 

For the brightness of LED light and clarity that used to be entangled with the night landscape, product that enables transmission both in the daytime and at night was launched to be used, and cost of installation is also very economic as compared to the timepoint of media facade installation. For such reasons, video deliberation scheme on the daytime landscape should be constructed in the future.

1) Management perspective

Media facade as public media can be divided into 3 types shown below depending on installation types. Typically, the corresponding spec is categorized based on time such as sunset after installation in line with the installation criteria, and the criteria items are as follows.


Operational criteria items 

LED Screen-type 

Media infrastructure type that uses the LCD screen as the video display part using LED backlight

Glass LED-type 

Media infrastructure type that configures the video display part using the LED device embedded in glass


Media infrastructure type that configures surface of buildings and such as the video display part using devices that can project video


Display element criteria

Definition of display element

Refers to the LED devices such as red, green and blue that is used to display color video or white light in the LED-type media infrastructure

Display element distance

Distance between the display element of the video display device that uses LED as the display element

Display module

Unit component that was manufactured by combining display elements to configure the video display part

Video display part

LED-type media infrastructure refers to the surface including the light source that projects the video, and projection-type media infrastructure refers to the entire scope that the corresponding video covers

[Table ] Allowance criteria for light emission of media infrastructure (Criteria for Good Light of Seoul Metropolitan Government [Unit: cd/])


Application time

Reference value

Light environment management district


Brightness of emitting surface

60 min after sunset

~60 min before sunrise

Average value

Type 1 : 20 or less

Media facade applies the maximum value as the reference value.

Type 2 : 60 or less

Type 3 : 180 or less

Type 4

Semi-industrial 240 or less

Commercial region:300 or less

[표5] 빛 방사허용기준과 심야소등 규제에 대한 예외(서울시 기준)

Rationale for relevant regulation

Light Pollution Prevention Act Article 12

Energy Use Rationalization Act Article 7


Lights out at night (23:00) and criteria to allow light emission can be adjusted by gaining approval from the Good Light Committee of Seoul Metropolitan Government when operated for a limited time period for the purpose of event, festival and tourism promotion in Korea and abroad

Among media facades, there are many cases of controllers being installed by using enclosed boxes on the outside for beam projects and glass walls, and this may lead to difficulties in real-time site operation in terms of central control.

Recently, there have been frequent cases of not being able to apply new technology and promotion because they are not compatible with the old installation specification. In case of Seoul Square, renewal was planned due to frequent flickering of LED and stockout of the same replacement products, but it cannot be implemented because there are difficulties in carrying out discussions with the lessees due to commercial spaces that correspond to four types. Recently, 'Jungnang Mang-U Space' of Jungnang-gu placed sound facility and is carrying out various promotions to communicate with residents through history storytelling videos and such by overcoming the disadvantage of artworks and promotion of Jungnang-gu, especially, media facade, which is the difficulty to install sound facility.

[Image 3 Left] LED module product installation type in ‘Jungnang Mang-U Space’ of Jungnang-gu 

[Image 4 Right] LED pixel(dot-type) embedded installation type of ‘Seoul Square’ 

2) Contents vitalization perspective

Contents of media facade is demanding artistic value in terms of public design. In case of newly installed media infrastructure, verification of focus, popularity, aesthetics and psychological perspective that is provided by the video are considered and reflected during video production in order to appropriately express video technology that can induce engagement and bilateral enjoyment as the popularity of metaverse and AR/VR grows.

However, if the current requirements to produce media facade were to be analyzed on average, spec that allows direct participation to have the audience send messages or images or develop and synchronize mobile applications through the method of connecting to interactive program or function such as media infrastructure is being requested, and it is announced to prioritize the interest of the viewers.

In addition, there is a request to organize functional or operational manual as maintenance guideline so that it can be easily controlled by the manager. As for the contents that existed until now, if the case of considering the visual perspective as the work of group or famous artist was the restricting factor, it can be realized that there is a desire to use media facade as a tool to communicate with the public. Realistically, the public is not clearly distinguishing media infrastructure and media facade.

As could be seen in media facade transmission site research realized by Incheon-si, media is being recognized as an emotional space that can be uploaded onto SNS channels by taking pictures, enjoying and experiencing things based on size, location or contents in comparison to media infrastructure.

In Korea, media infrastructure and media facade are being distinguished in terms of institutional categorization, but the public doesn't perceive the two as being very different, and hopes for the contents of the media facade to change quickly as is for the media infrastructure and billboard advertisements that are changing constantly. In addition, according to survey, more than 70% want contents that are easy to understand or movies.

[Image 5] Media infrastructure case

[Image 6] Media facade case

[Image 7] Billboard advertisement case

Urban Landscape Division of the Design Policy Bureau at Seoul Metropolitan Government is preparing operating criteria and concept of media facade through advices and various research for operation and development of media infrastructure and media facade in the institutional scope. If the contrasting role against the billboard advertisement (Image 5) was the best method to be taken by the managing department to integrate media facade with art as a field of digital media, in the future, communication with the manager of the building, the agent of installation, will be opened up to gather opinions on operation, and the opinions of the citizens who are in contact with the contents the most as the audience is also being continuously researched. In particular, it was confirmed that the residents and residing employees of Seoul Square expect media facade to play a critical role as a tourism city and in the development of regional economy as the landmark with media facade, according to the research carried out in 2016. In case of the peripheral city, Incheon, opinions were gathered on site and survey was carried out on the impact of media facade directly installed and operated by the city on the residents, and citizens responded that the role of media facade is considered not only as an artistic video but with a familiar image at the level of a large movie theater that can allow communication with the public.

[Image 8] Panoramic view and right-side beam projector structure of Subong Park Michuhol-gu, Incheon)

[Image 9] Media facade video being transmitted at the frotn of Subong Park Michuhol-gu, Incheon (Top_Left/Right Creation of Incheon, Bottom Left_Art painting related to Hundertwasser environemnt, Right_image of natural waterfall)

According to research, the policy to install media facade and operating contents is leaving a very positive impression on the youths, and for family visitors, media facade installation venue is becoming a space to play in. We can understand that the form of parks and plaza that is being used as a meeting place to meet up with other families has been established as a representative landmark of space to experience media. 

[Image 10]  Media art winner of ‘I'm a Creator Contest’ in Incheon-si, general work of student (Particiption of multicultural family_5th material)

3. Continuous operation

Video transmitted by media facade is an operating system that requires deliberation. Also, light facility requires continuous renovation. It is in the form of video display that requires contents, and at the time, since it is a form of art that is based on structures that have to be installed offline with lights and programs, it would require fixed installation, operation and management cost, and on top of this, contents exposed to the public in real-time have to be renewed. The area that surrounds the media facade has to be at the center of the city or a venue that the public frequently visits, or a space where contents of similar facilities that display new media are located in as the result of the advancement of mass media, and thus, people might become tired of it quickly. As cooperation with art is required, separate budget has to be allocated for artists to develop artworks, and etc. Furthermore, in case of video for media facade, there are permanent exhibitions, but since new videos that represent the season are also developed and transmitted, there are many cases where the timepoint to complete deliberation and modify the video is not in line with the timepoint to display the video.

[Image 11] Christmas at main branch of Lotte Department Store/Image of the main branch of Shinsegae Department Store(Material submitted to The Good Light Deliberation of Seoul Metropolitan Government)

The legibility of areas that surround the media facades that were installed to be operated as nighttime landscape is being degraded due to the impact of the lights from cars, billboard advertisement and the amount of light that is emitted from buildings, and the structural installations that are exposed to the outside are also aging. Moreover, the LAN line has to also be replaced for the internal internet network, but since the building structure has to be demolished to install new lines, there could be a disconnect, and if so, it would be difficult to provide remote support. Based on the characteristic of media facade that involves a significant amount of investment and operation without development of contents and profitability, working-level personnel, investors and people in charge of installation and operation of media facade may face financial difficulties. It is because the facility would first be introduced as landscape lighting and not billboard advertisements but investors may face difficulties in maintaining the identity and installation objective of media facade due to similar media, in line with the change in the era.

Considerations have to be given on the autonomy of temporary or event operations as a field of digital media in terms of the identity of media facade pursued by Seoul Metropolitan Government, and roles should be granted as media with benefit of sharing information and advantages of mass media that is being operated based on economic ecosystem.


4) Perspective of public value

As a result of gathering opinions through interviews with residents and employees residing in companies around media facades of Subong Park in Incheon and Seoul Square in Jung-gu, Seoul, citizens are demanding opportunities to enjoy works that reflect the artistic value and uniqueness together with movies, animations and events through the professional operation by art associations and government institutions in free use of media. This can be interpreted as that the trust on operation of corresponding institutions and art associations are very high and that people have open perception on the culture to be enjoyed and information that is gathered through other media. Media facade no longer exists as artistic decorations but is being perceived as communication media, and trendy and participative cultural art such as Team Lab and Arte Museum can be experienced directly.


[Image 12 Left] Realistic 'Gwanghwa Won(Garden)' contents of Gwanghwa Sidae

[Image 13 Right] ‘Gwanghwa In (Person)' AI information of Gwanghwa Sidae


[Image 14 Left] 'Gwanghwa Byeokhwa (Mural)' 3D image of Gwanghwa Sidae

[Image 15 Right] Media facade video of Subong Park, Incheon  

edia contents plaza was established in Gwanghwamun, Seoul through ‘Gwanghwa Sidae’. The view of the public as audience is demanding a strong need for interest along with requirements for collective intelligence on culture. In particular, the trendiness of media facade is not only contributing to the aesthetics of cities but allowing the role of the public that is at the center of spreading the culture and advancing arts to also embody the opinions of both the managers and users.

Development direction of media facade as public design

Video without sound, uni-lateral transmission of art work, contents that does not change. As such, media facade should develop to exchange culture and share information instead of simply sending videos, and it should also develop as a role model that allows mutual communication of personal emotion and sentiments. Contents of media facade should be implemented to enable immersiveness, liveliness and various video filming methods or interactions. Citizens, audience and tourists should not discriminate against ethnicity, language or gender and be non-political, and since the thoughts and intention of participating artists, culture and art are being transmitted through hardware known as the lighting, these should be produced with the popularity in mind. Also, the impact of revisiting has to be considered to ensure that the residents and employees residing in the nearby region are not exposed to psychological stress caused by the event or visual effects.

In the perspective of design, media facade that has already broken away from the form of landscape lighting is trying to define media facade through public design as the symbol of communication media in the future city. For media facade that is the public design to be operated as the total platform, broad operating system that is required to establish a location that reflects the characteristic of design ecosystem has to be established and continuous management system has to be prepared. Based on the characteristic of key installation locations, instead of establishing a space that is limited to some viewers, the function of public design function has to be embodied in an open space that can be approached easily.

In case of Seoul Metropolitan Government, the number of media facades amounted to 38 cases as of 2016, and it was found to have almost doubled to 64 cases (statistical data of Seoul Metropolitan Government) as of December, 2021 according to a case investigation. As for the media that is called the media facade, there are more cases where participative experiential space and media facade are linked to interact instead of the size and form simply being installed on the facade of buildings. The public is at the center of such performance, and I believe evaluation of future operation would also lie in the public.

In Korea, municipal governments such as Busan, Gwangju, Incheon, Gangwon-do and Jeju Island are consigning research in various angles to construct systematic standards. In particular, Urban Landscape Division of the Design Policy Bureau at Seoul Metropolitan Government is preparing operational standards and demonstrative scheme by expanding the scope from landscape lighting to digital media.

Seoul Design Foundation is exhibiting media facade cultural art festival through Seoul Light every year as a representative media art event that Seoul shows off. Popular media art contents with class are settling in as attractions and media in which accomplished artist from home and abroad, participating companies with the best technology in Korea and experimental media artworks of next-generation artists are participating in, and currently, it is leading the trend with global media art performance through the improvement in awareness and positive feedback from citizens.


Until now, contents that were developed at the early stage and the aged media facade facilities are not growing at the speed that city is developing except for a few cases due to a contracted system. In order to expand the participative opportunities of small-scale video producing companies and new artists and to develop new artistic contests while increasing the number of media infrastructure as a pillar of urban nighttime landscape, it is, of course, important for the government to take the lead in nighttime landscape, but moreover, contribution and engagement of the private sector is desperately needed. New installations that will grow further in the future should be installed for sure to encourage renovation of aged media facade, and contents should also introduce a new operating system and management system that is fit for the AI era based on synchronization of app that can connect the global public through real-time mobile, interaction with participating individuals, and synchronization between media for scalability of total platform based on technology advancement, provision of various contents for the public, presentation of uniqueness and experimental works of artists instead of triteness. City design should induce opportunities to improve and voluntary growth and operation since it is an area that is the most closely exposed through the skin of the citizens from development, maintenance, and size of exterior to operating contents as compared to design of other genres, and should provide realistic support and management such as removal and renovation that is proportionate to new establishment through policy and site due diligence.


While a large amount of budget and operating personnel is required until new contents are developed, deliberated and transmitted, the biggest issue is that there are many cases where additional development is difficult and contents are neglected because the owner that is responsible for maintenance faces a limit. I believe that for media facade to play its role and function as a total platform, it has to be linked to quantitative support and systemic mitigation for a certain period of time as a key factor of 4th industrial revolution. Of media infrastructure on site, the working-level personnel in the field of media facade need budget and manpower that can reflect the interactive function for bilateral communication that the audience wants, enhancement in the aged facility (LED/wires, and etc.) and lack of diverse set of contents. I believe that media facade will be able to be called a 'total media platform' true to its name as public media if there is a systemic method to resolve the basic operational issues such as simple exhibition/remote management on top of the Good Light Committee. I believe there should be temporary or short-term systemic mitigation policies during a certain period such as national events or festivals as shown in overseas use cases.

I believe that method to continuously resolve various operational cases that incorporate media contents of qualitative art has to be sought out and proposed in operating municipal governments to allow media facade to resolve operational difficulties as public design that is already installed or to be installed in the future, and the resolution will have to lead to development of various contents so that diversity of urban design can be secured through daytime/nighttime media and not be deteriorated into pollution that provides disagreeable and visual tiredness to the public. As is the overseas use cases, in the market economy, rather than sanctioning through strong regulations, media facade will have to provide physical support to artists, and systemic support to operators even if it is temporary so that there is no visual pollution.


In order to eliminate any confusion with billboards or media infrastructure, standards have to be set clearly so that there can be a communication platform that embodies art and culture in terms of site management and improvement in system for active management. Improved media facade of the future that plays the role of multi-communication platform that implements technology and art, interaction and real-time streaming should contribute more actively to public design.

Since installation and management contributes to the vitalization of the development of industry and economy while communication for operation requires experts from various circles, the field of application will develop and be linked to job creation in relevant areas. Media facade that evolves based on technology needs to achieve continuous improvement in the system based on growth so that it can become a cornerstone in establishing the pillar of public design and image of the 21st century future city as a platform of the cultural and art ecosystem.

1) Minimum criteria is defined for an efficient installation and management of media infrastructure that prevents light noise and creates a good form of light, and it is applied on the installation and management of media infrastructure that uses structures, facilities and architecture aside from the decorative media facade lighting that unifies buildings and lights.
2) Oct 2022. Result of implementing Incheon city-led site research on 4 media facades 'media art development operation'.
3) Times Square of US that symbolizes the district that expresses the freedom of billboard
4) advertisement (Refer to, 2022 Incheon Media Art Report, Seoul Nighttime Landscape Vitalization Report),

US_150 Media Stream, Crown Fountain, Chicago/ China_DATA GATE, Nanjing/ US_Jen Lewin, Brooklyn, New York (Artwork of Jen Lewin that emphasizes the experience in a responsive manner tha allows customer participation/ UK, Piccadilly Circus, London/ Opera House in Australia, and etc.

5) September 18th, 2022, pm6~10. Opinions of citizens gathered at the media facade of Subong Park, Incheon
6) Impact of free outdoor advertising zone on the formation of location, Kim Heesook, Ph.D at Hongik University , 2017
7)Mainly installed on the geographical location with plaza, parks or wide surrounding spaces
9) Refer to Gwanghwa Sidae in Gwanghwamun
10) 2021 Seoul Light survey, Digital satisfaction research of Space Elvis

Writer I Adjunct Professor Kim Hee-sook, Namseoul University

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