The “Murmer Wall” by Future Cities Lab – What Is Your City Thinking?

We recently met with the talented group that make up Future Cities Lab during our trip to San Francisco last week. An interdisciplinary team of employees with backgrounds in technology, concept art, architecture, and urban ecology. They operate out of very cool cavernous design and manufacture studio within the co-work environment American Industrial Center ( An 800,000 SF city within a city work environment that houses an eclectic mix of businesses, ranging anywhere from world famous chocolatiers, to start up tech, and in house breweries.

Future Cities Lab took us through some of the projects they have recently been commissioned to build, and one stood out in particular. If you have been to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts near Union Square in the last year, then you have seen the digital exoskeleton resembling a futuristic beached whale at the entrance of the park and YBCA. Although its seemingly lifeless body hums throughout the day in a soft glow, it is at night when the beast is awakened. The premise behind the design starts off like this. What Will The City Around Us Be Thinking, Seeing And Feeling, In The Near Future? How Will Its Desires And Fears Manifest? What Will Be Most Important?

Here is what they say. “Offering a glimpse into the immediate future, the Murmur Wall is an artificially intelligent, anticipatory architecture that reveals what the city is whispering, thinking and feeling. By proactively harvesting local online activity—via search engines and social media—the Murmur Wall anticipates what will soon matter most to the city. Constructed out of an intricate weave of steel and acrylic tubing, digital displays and electronics, the Murmur Wall allows visitors to witness datastreams weaving through the wall in the form of animated LED light and digital text displays. As a continuously evolving interface, the Murmur Wall provides a place for the city to share, indulge and reflect on the real-time desires—and anxieties—of its citizens.”

We have all heard the phrase, “the creative act is a process, not a single moment.” Which in most cases is very true. Rome was not built in a day or with one single brick. However, this machine is designed for a single moment only. In that, your digital thought contributions will only be shared once. A single moment. And to never be reused or shared ever again. So in theory, the creative act can be designed for a single moment, however the steps to get there are many. And to you Future Cities Lab we say please keep Revealing.