Nature Scenes in The Modern Office: A Digital Walk In The Park

Posted April 20, 2020

20,000 years of history have made one thing very clear: people want to look at images of the outside when they’re sitting inside. From the animal-filled cave paintings to the foggy mountains of Chinese art to the curious persistence of decorative wax fruit,  human culture is filled with examples of reproduced nature. Recently, advances in digital technology have created an interesting evolution in this tradition, producing the paradox of increasingly realistic reproductions of nature appearing on screens in more and more places, including the modern office.

When you are looking to reposition your property into a modern office building many people agree that natural themes create more livable, more work friendly, more memorable environments. Nature-based content that reflects a property’s specific region and locale can create the iconic sense of place that really puts a property on the map. Another benefit is the smooth lines and unpredictable movements of natural scenes break up the sharpness of environments common in many office buildings. And most importantly, these moments amongst nature (digital or otherwise) are transformative and calming. Taken together, this approach empowers you to create a destination and give your tenants and their employees a moment of escape and a connection to a more relaxing, meditative place.

Nature in the Modern Office

See examples of how digital nature scenes can be used around the modern office building:


Nature As Placemaking

You want your property to stand out. What better way to establish a striking building identity than to use local nature imagery to play up a building’s distinct location.

At 221 Main Street in San Francisco, a dark building entrance was transformed into a digital canopy displaying locally-inspired content. The digital media program reflects the modern office building’s natural surroundings such as the iconic Pacific Coast Highway, waterfalls, and the calming San Francisco Bay, reinforcing 221 Main’s place within the neighborhood, city and state.

Exterior of modern office building, with a long digital canopy showing a water scene. The canopy lights up the street at night.
221 Main Street in San Francisco.

177 Huntington Avenue in Boston takes that theming approach in a new direction by using local environmental conditions like wind speed and temperature to drive abstract media visualizations. The custom LED lighting, hidden in strips of brushed steel, reflects dreamy colors off the polished cement wall. The digital media, also visible from outside the building, visually interprets changing weather conditions, the seasons, and even the ripples on the reflecting pool outside on the plaza.

A lobby with furniture clusters and people sitting and talking. On the back wall, the light installation plays pink animations.
177 Huntington Avenue in Boston.

1055 East Colorado in Los Angeles’ central design element mixes these approaches, creating an unusual digital media moment in the building’s modern office . A large-scale topographical map of the nearby mountain range is lit by LEDs that change color over the course of the day to simulate the sun passing over the range. The lights themselves reflect the time of day and traverse the map in the same way the actual sun casts shadows across the real mountains.

1055 East Colorado in Los Angeles.

At the Wells Fargo Center in Denver you will find a monumental media installation that assembles a mosaic of the nearby Colorado mountains out of images sourced from nature-focused local photographers. The digital media installation also creates a flock of lark buntings (the Colorado state bird) that changes their plumage with the season.

Wells Fargo Center in Denver.


Terrell Place in Washington D.C.,  also uses nature to unexpectedly transform an otherwise regular lobby space into a modern office. In the immersive media installation, responsive, floor-to-ceiling animations of the city’s famous cherry blossoms activating the interior space and the street it looks out to.

Terrell Place in Washington, D.C.

A renovation at 1 CAL Plaza in Los Angeles created an impactful identity through experiential graphic design with nature imagery that was drawn from around the city. A panoramic photograph taken from the roof of the building was applied in slices to each of the vertical glass fins in the lobby’s expansive front windows. When viewed together as a whole image, the fins show the vast Los Angeles skyline and brings a sense of the expansive mountains surrounding the modern office building.

The modern office lobby at 1CAL Plaza in Los Angeles has vertical glass fins on the window on the right, which together make up a panoramic photo of the LA hills. A man speedily walks through the revolving door.
1CAL Plaza in Los Angeles.

Even More Natural Nature

At The Crossroads in San Mateo, California, the digital media installation features three different California landscapes. Made with a 3-D game engine, motion sensors and populated with AI-controlled animals this modern office lobby uses more advanced technologies. To really place viewers in the scene, the AI flora and fauna reacts to tenants as they pass through the lobby and past the installation using sophisticated sensors. The weather in the media scenes also mirrors the weather outside the building — when it’s raining outside, it’s raining in these worlds.

The Crossroads in San Mateo, CA.

The digital ceiling we installed at 900 North Michigan Shops, a mall in Chicago follows the work at The Crossroads by placing the viewer inside nature. We covered the ceiling at 900 Shops with super-high resolution LED displays that show overhanging foliage shot in super-high resolution. For visitors to the mall, the digital ceiling acts as a digital skylight, opening up the space, giving the atrium a grander feeling than the building would otherwise convey, and transporting the shoppers to a warm, placid outdoors even amid the frozen depths of the Chicago winter.

900 North Michigan Shops in Chicago.

The success of these immersive nature-based installations, and the growing desire for more livable workspaces and modern offices has driven us to extrapolate these nature themes to design elements beyond just the media. When you seamlessly integrating physical and digital design to create wholly immersive environments based on nature, people notice. Natural materials like wood or stone, organic colors and smooth lines; these are the elements that we use to amplify the power of nature-themed media and, ultimately, transform a space into an experience.

Could your modern office benefit from a touch of nature?

We have plenty of creative ideas for you. Click here to get in touch with our team.

Stuart Fox

Stuart Fox is a former content and activity designer at ESI Design. As familiar with digital storytelling as he is with words, as comfortable directing live action video as he is developing physical interactives, Stuart leverages every tool from his interdiscplinary experience to craft engaging, educational, emotional narratives.


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