If you’ve recently been in downtown Bellingham at night, you may have noticed the city’s iconic Herald Building looking a bit different.
Each night, about half an hour after sunset, the south-facing side of the historic building is brought to life, bathed in a frequently changing dance of light, color, and local imagery. This new artistic nightlife is a collaboration between Daylight Properties, the Herald Building’s owner, and Sensebellum, a local creative technology company.
Casey Scalf, Sensebellum’s owner, says the digital imagery is what’s known as projection mapping, which is basically a larger, more complicated version of a common projection setup. Sensebellum designed and fabricated three custom enclosures holding a total of six projectors, stuck them on the lower rooftop of the Herald Building, and calibrated each projector to be “pixel-perfect” and properly aimed at various points on the building’s south side.
When the automated projection system is triggered each night, six projections seamlessly blend together into a single image. The system produces 30,000 lumens of light (the rough equivalent of 6,000 keychain flashlights) across an area five stories tall and more than 100 feet wide, displaying specially made video files run off a computer.
The imagery projects for two hours each weekday night from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. during the summer, and from 9:00 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on weekends. In the winter, when darkness befalls Bellingham much earlier, the schedule shifts to reflect those hours.
Scalf says the idea for the project began in 2017, when he was contacted by an event organizer of the Western Washington University event “Paint Bham Blue,” which welcomes new students to the area each September.
Daylight Properties CEO and WWU Board Member, Kane Hall, suggested that the organizers reach out to Sensebellum with the idea that a visual show would be an exciting element to add to the annual event.
The annual projections they did for that event were popular, so last summer Scalf suggested a permanent installation if the event were to continue indefinitely. The move would save on annual installation costs and allow year-round projections.
Daylight Properties believed that the addition of the permanent projection would work well with the Herald Building LED letters that light up at night. The lights were upgraded in 2016 to create programmable LED light colors and sequences that could be used to celebrate and recognize local and national events.
As an iconic landmark to downtown Bellingham, the building lent itself as a perfect canvas for the creativity and artwork that Sensebellum and other local artists could display their work on and have some fun with.
“We have a thriving art community here in Bellingham and it’s always been important to our company to help contribute to the arts in whatever way we can,” says Hall.
Daylight Properties recently commissioned murals for the Bellingham National Bank Building along E Holly Street and has long supported local art organizations including Allied Arts, the Pickford Film Center and sponsoring the Downtown Bellingham Partnership Downtown Sounds summer event.
The projection animations frequently change based on the time of year, incorporating different holidays and themes, which Scalf is responsible for designing and updating.
In addition to designing several holiday themes—Halloween will feature jack o’ lanterns and spooky eyes—Scalf collaborated with several local creatives, including drone cinematographer Michael Dyrland, whose aerial landscapes are spectacular.
Other animations include glowing neon lines, a clip of a seagull pulling a Bellingham flag in the manner of a plane with a banner, and a large hand drawing something across the building. For the latter, Scalf used a CNC machine to cut out a scaled-down replica of the side of the Herald Building, then put it on a table and aimed a camera at it. Then, he began painting. Another of his favorite designs was for this year’s Earth Day; the projections consisted of beautiful images of the earth, as seen from the International Space Station. In all, there are nearly 10 hours of projectable content so far.
“There are a lot of great clips,” Scalf says. “When you walk by, chances are it’s going be a different clip you haven’t seen.”
Scalf says he’ll keep churning out more cool projections, and hopes it will further the project’s goal of making people stop for just a moment, to be captivated by larger-than-life images, and to appreciate the area in which they live. He’s honored, he adds, to be able to make a positive artistic impact on the city’s skyline.
“The Herald sign is iconic by itself,” he says. “But to be able to light up that building and, especially, to have the ability to be creative with it in a way that matches the creative energy around town—I just feel really tickled that we were able to do this.”
Historic Herald Building letters are for available for purchase. Please contact Daylight Properties at 360-734-6600 for price.