Spectators of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games have something else to look forward to – their faces being projected on the pavilion of MegaFon, one of Russia’s largest telecommunications companies and general partner of the Games.

Dubbed the ‘Mount Rushmore of the digital age’, the kinetic and interactive installation is designed by London-based architect Asif Khan to constantly display the faces of participants in 3D.

The façade of the 2,000sqm MegaFaces Pavilion is developed to function like a huge pin screen, and is made up of 10,000 narrow cylinders called actuators.

Each cylinder contains a RGB-LED light at its tip, making it possible to precisely calculate the position of every pixel. The light will shine through a thin veil draped over the entire façade, which gives a smooth surface to the changing forms, creating a striking visual even at night.


Visitors can participate by having their faces scanned at 3D photo booths within the pavilion. Five images of the visitors’ faces will be simultaneously captured from different angles, before the cylinders transform the building’s skin into an eight-metre 3D portrait of each visitor for 20 seconds.  

The system takes about a minute to calculate the 3D model from the five individual pictures taken.

The actuators will be laid out on a triagonal grid to disguise junctions between the pixels.

“In the area of a three-dimensional modelling of organic forms a trigonal structure is more suitable, because it makes three-dimensional forms appear natural and flowing even with only a small amount of pixels,” says Valentin Spiess, chief engineer on the project and CEO of Swiss company iart, which developed the technology.

Khan notes that the installation is based on the idea of giving everyone the opportunity to become the face of the Olympics.

“I’m inspired by the way the world is changing around us and how architecture can respond to it,” says Khan.

“’Selfies’ and ‘emoticons’ have become our shorthand for communicating in the digital age; my instinct was to create a piece of architecture for Sochi which could be monumental yet open to that immediacy.”

Each participant will be informed of the time to expect their face on the wall, and will also receive a personal video of their 20 seconds to fame. There are currently plans to display the visages of over 170,000 people.

The MegaFaces Pavilion is located at the entrance to the Olympic Park, and incorporates an exhibition hall, hospitality areas, a rooftop viewing deck and two broadcasting suits. It is due to be opened to the public on 7 February 2014 and will remain in place for the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

A video of an initial batch test with 1000 actuators:

Images: http://www.asif-khan.com/