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Tweet-Activated LED Building Sheds Light on Homelessness in Toronto

Just by tweeting the hashtag #homelessness, you can change the color of a massive architecture.

by Emerson Rosenthal
Feb 17 2015, 4:15pm

Tweeting the hashtag #homelessness changes the facade of the Ryerson School of Image Arts and Ryerson Image Center from a cold blue representation of current weather conditions into a warm, empathetic red. Photo credit: Maggie Chan. Images courtesy the artists

The building-sized, tweet-reactive visual representation of the plight of Toronto's homeless is back again, and this time, it's bigger, better at communicating its important message, and even more interactive than ever. 

By combining the ephemerality of technology with the steadfast nature of architecture, two Toronto-based artists annually transform a building in downtown Toronto into a moving monument for social change. In The Air, Tonight is a project by Patricio Davila and Dave Colangelo that, for one month a year, transforms the LED facade of the Ryerson School of Image Arts and Ryerson Image Center into a visual representation of the plight of Canada's homeless during the unforgiving winter. The way it works is that every time anyone tweets the hashtag #homelessness, the animations on the wall, the blue visual representations of the area's current wind speed and direction, change to the color red.

Last February when it was on display, Davila and Colangelo witnessed a 10% increase in the use of the #homelessness hashtag on Twitter. This year, In The Air, Tonight is webcam-enabled, higher-resolution, and able to be interacted with on a global level. "We're bringing the world into this space in the middle of Toronto, so we should also do the reverse of that and bring the building back out to the world in some way," Colangelo explains to The Creators Project. Inspired by a similarly-minded project by activist group Children of Don Quixote, there's even a red tent situated on a nearby streetcorner that has been installed to make the information flowing across the LEDs more tangible.

"We're trying to seek ways to increase our collective understanding of issues that are important to us and to somehow evoke empathetic responses both online and in urban public environments," says Colangelo. The result is an expressive architectural experience that breathes compassion and life into the frozen Canadian landscape.  

In The Air, Tonight 2015 from Patricio Davila on Vimeo.

In The Air, Tonight will be on view through March 5, 2015. To learn more, visit intheairtonight.org, and follow @itatonight on Twitter. 

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