Having managed many of SNA Displays’ numerous large-scale, attention-grabbing LED displays, I’m still no less pleased at the well-earned attention the landmark, mixed-media destination known as the AT&T Discovery District has received. From the very tight radius on The Media Wall at AT&T Discovery District to the circular columns in the AT&T Experience Store to the signature media experience created by the AT&T Headquarters Lobby, this downtown Dallas destination venue represents a great deal of design and technical expertise.
John Pisciotta joined the SNAPros™ team in 2015. Throughout his tenure, John has managed and advised on some of the most iconic LED display projects in SNA Displays’ portfolio for a wide range of clients. John focuses on managing and mitigating risk while operating within varying project constraints to deliver the highest quality product and service. John is a graduate of Rutgers University-School of Engineering and holds a PMP certification.
The project as a whole was just about as vast and complex as they get, but from a technical and project management perspective, two aspects stand out to me: the many custom columns and the outdoor plaza’s impressive Media Wall.
DIFFERENT COLUMNS, DIFFERENT SOLUTIONS
As industry veterans know, columns wrapped in LEDs must be handled with care. Good design, quality product, and careful installation are necessary for high-end results. The design for the AT&T Discovery District called for many LED-wrapped columns—10 to be precise—of varying sizes and specifications. For example, the column at the AT&T Experience store is circular while the columns in the lobby are mostly four-sided square columns. Thus, SNA Displays offered two completely different solutions.
In the AT&T Experience Store, the cylindrical LED canvas wraps around a building structural column. The solution here was to not mount the LED technology directly to the structural column but to use a faceted subframe with pedestal feet, custom-made to meet the design, and bolt the assembly to the concrete floor.
For the AT&T Lobby, we took a different approach. First, every corner on the AT&T Lobby columns was custom-built from our factory to ensure tight seams over the subframe. The LED was then hung on 2×2 horizontal tube steel which was welded to the building’s structural columns.
factoring in adjustability
Subframes are an invisible necessity, and for most projects, subframe details aren’t even worth mentioning. For the AT&T Lobby, however, one of the biggest technical challenges was designing and installing subframes that (1) provided a proper fit for the columns’ tight corners and (2) allowed enough room behind the displays where an unusual amount of support and infrastructure components lived. In other words, we had to find a way to maximize the air gap behind the panels to make room for not only the standard electrical wiring, but also the PEX tubing for the water-cooling system unique to these columns.
To enclose the four-sided columns perfectly, we had to be able to move and slide the subframe steel without hitting the columns’ structural steel. This required the ability to adjust the subframe so they didn’t clash with the unmovable columns. This required a great deal of coordination with other consulting engineers and experts as well as sizing the subframe steel very specifically to make everything fit. Ultimately, we oversized the subframes to maximize the square footage of the cooling panels without increasing the size of the LED faces, allowing us to maintain the required size and appearance AT&T specified for the LED video technology.
CLOSE COORDINATION FOR THE MEDIA WALL
The District’s highest-profile component is the 104′ tall by 84′ wide Media Wall, an LED mega-spectacular that wraps around the high-rise that houses the AT&T Experience Store. As the focal point for The District, there was obviously a good deal of interest in making sure this gigantic digital art canvas went off without a hitch.
As a project manager, I feel I’ve coordinated well if the field team experiences minimal issues during the installation phase. Thanks to the team of professionals working on this project, the Media Wall went up very smoothly, despite being one of the largest displays we’ve installed where the structural steel was designed and built entirely by another team of contractors. However, that doesn’t mean we didn’t have to be extremely vigilant about the details since a new set of risks is introduced when working with a support structure built by others; it requires a thorough review of design and shop drawings prepared by the project team to verify conformity with our requirements and high standards.
As a project manager, I feel I’ve coordinated well if the field team experiences minimal issues during the installation phase.
For example, AT&T’s engineering team was very prescriptive about where the steel could be placed for the Media Wall, meaning we had fewer attachment points and larger-than-normal vertical spacing between horizontal steel supports for the display. It required coordination and expertise to ensure the underlying structure met design criteria while also serving its primary purpose of supporting the display hardware within the constraints of our installation and attachment methods. Fortunately, our project management team is composed of experts from different fields of construction who drew on their expertise to help specify a structural-screw attachment capable of handling very large loads and being drilled through thick (>1/2″) steel supports.
Ultimately, The District is a success for SNA Displays because we were able to focus on our core competencies: fabricating a high-quality LED display product and processing system, coordinating with the project team of design professionals and specialty contractors, and supervising the installation. Our project management team’s ability to find solutions, conduct proper planning, and execute the plan in the field distinguishes us from the rest, and these are definitely critical components to the success of this marquee installation. Our entire team is incredibly proud of the results, myself included.