The Kinetic Facade of the MegaFaces Pavilion

Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics

MegaFaces is a cross-platform project that combines digital, sculptural and architectural innovation. It was conceived by London architect Asif Khan and engineered by iart for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The project was commissioned by the Russian telecom operator MegaFon.

Similar to a pin screen, the kinetic facade of the MegaFaces Pavilion was able to transform in three dimensions to recreate human faces. It displayed giant 3D-'Selfies' of visitors to the building and sports fans from all over Russia and thus, gave everyone the opportunity to be the face of the Olympics. True to MegaFon's campaign: 'Create your own Olympic history'.

11,000 Telescopic Actuators

The kinetic facade of the MegaFaces Pavilion was engineered by iart down to the smallest detail. It measured 18 x 8 metres and consisted of 11,000 telescopic cylinders, so called actuators. The actuators could be controlled individually and carried at their tips a translucent sphere containing an RGB-LED. Each actuator acted as one pixel within the entire facade and could be extended by up to two metres as part of a three-dimensional shape or change colour as part of an image or video that was simultaneously displayed.

Facial Scans Generated in 3D Photo Booths

Facial impressions were created once every minute. They were relayed to the kinetic facade from scans made in 3D photo booths that were custom-developed by iart and installed within the building and in public locations across Russia. The photo booths captured five photographs at the same time from slightly different angles, thus making the scanning process simple and instantaneous.

A scaling and positioning algorithm developed by Scott Eaton transformed the faces on-the-fly considering day lighting, scale, rotation, form and additional colour. The processed facial models were then inserted into a timeline by iart's electronic scheduling system. Finally, the images were converted into control data and sent to the individual actuators. An external system displayed participants' names on screens in front of the pavilion and sent them an SMS informing them of the time their faces would appear.

The First 3D Actuated Large-Scale LED Facade

The resultant portraits appeared on the side of the building, three at a time, at 8 metres tall — a magnification of 3500x  larger, in fact, than the Statue of Liberty's face. Technologies of this kind have never before been used for such a large-scale project. MegaFaces is effectively the world's first three-dimensionally actuated large-scale LED screen.

The Face as Universal Shorthand for Communicating

Asif Khan's concept for MegaFaces was inspired by the way the world is changing around us and how architecture can respond to it. For thousands of years people have used portraiture to record their history on the landscape, buildings and through public art. Today the internet is how we record our history. 'Selfies', 'emoticons', 'Facebook' and 'FaceTime' etc. have become universal tools for communicating, and the face persists as the prevalent shorthand in these new mediums.

In realising this project, iart has once again proven itself as an interdisciplinary partner with profound engineering expertise. After having successfully collaborated on Coca-Cola's Beatbox Pavilion for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, this was the second joint project between Asif Khan and iart.

Exhibition Site

Sochi 2014 Olympic Park

Project Phases

Conception, Planning, Realisation, Operation

Project Duration

1 year


7 February 2014

Exhibition Duration

1 month


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