Skip to main content



Wednesday and Thursday, April 17 & 18, 8:30 p.m. (nightfall), a free public event

Art, Design, Nature, and Technology at Scale by Obscura Digital

At the close of Opening Day (April 17—and again on April 18), acclaimed creative technology innovators Obscura Digital transformed the façade of historic Pier 15 into a luminous portal revealing complex micro and macro phenomena. Emergence used architectural projections of real-life visualizations involving fluid dynamics, microorganisms, particle interactions, living systems, crystallization, and plant growth accompanied by original sound compositions to evoke a sense of wonder and awe about the nature of order in our universe.


To accompany Emergence, Obscura presented an interactive thermal imaging wall (in cooperation with Flir) on the side of the Exploratorium’s main entrance, where visitors saw their heat signature projected in real-time, at large scale, with brilliant color.

Behind the Scenes: Emergence
Obscura Digital reveals the creative process behind its spellbinding visual odyssey.

Creating Emergence

Immiscible Fluids - (14"x 2" x 1/4") acrylic tray

Fluid Dynamics (Cloud Tank) - (41"x 24" x 3") acrylic laminate tank

Wax Liquefaction - (23"x 5" x 1/2") acrylic and aluminum mold

Terrestrial Biopsy: Order, Living Systems - (41"x 8.8" x 8") glass and wood open terrarium


Emergence Q/A with Obscura Digital

1. What is an architectural projection?

An architectural projection is a method of presenting video on the surface of a building so that it looks like the content is integrated with the architecture. Through perspective illusion and thoughtful design it can seem as if the content lives on or inside the building, and even changes its structure. This process allows us to bring a space to life by designing around the building’s function, in this case as an institution dedicated to “science, art, and human perception”.

2. What types of creative people typically work on your projects?

A project from Obscura studios is touched by a wide range of highly skilled creatives from multiple disciplines. We are artists, musicians, technologists, builders, videographers, programmers and designers who each contribute vital input to all stages of a work. Everyone has a broad set of skills and we all wear many hats over the course of a project.

3. What makes the Exploratorium project distinct from your other works? What made it interesting to you?

The Exploratorium has been a fantastic and unique partner to collaborate with on this one-of-a-kind project. Unlike most of our projects, which have heavy computer graphics, for Emergence we started from the Exploratorium’s focus on science and human perception, and decided to take a unique approach by directly capturing the wonder of physical phenomena and creatively displaying it as only possible through digital technology. All of the content you see on the building was filmed live from experiments run in our studio, there are no computer graphics used.

4. Can you describe your process for creating Emergence?

The Exploratorium had genuine confidence in our team, giving us complete freedom to fully express our vision. This was absolutely critical in pulling off such an ambitious feat in so little time. The actual process for creating the work itself was so involved that it's simplest to say that each member of our small team brought the best of a lifetime's worth of discipline regarding their craft and a natural curiosity about the world around them. Conceptual, technological, aesthetic, scientific, mechanical, musical and philosophical; the crossroads of these passions were the nexus for this great work.

5. You conducted a variety of experiments to create this piece. What surprised you?

That most everything worked! We've had experience with many of these experiments, but of the things we planned, we thought we'd be lucky to get a little more than half to come off. Looking back at the things that could have gone wrong, the level of success we achieved is truly miraculous.

6. Thinking back on your original ideas for the piece, did Emergence end up where you thought it would go?

It went beyond. Emergence was not preordained, but literally emerged as the work developed. Originally the show was to be a series of clever Exploratorium style gags, supporting the idea of creating 'The Worlds Largest Experiment'. A bit of this idea still remains, but truthfully what came about was something much more profound. In the end the experiments began telling their own story. Up close and personal with these phenomena you can't help but contemplate the golden thread that runs through all.

7. What should we look for when we see it?

For each viewer these images will have their own story to tell. But it's our hope that no matter what your age or perspective, this experience as a whole will tip the balance, leaving a lasting impression of being part of something incomprehensibly large and dynamic.

Obscura Digital, a San Francisco-based creative technology studio, orchestrates entertaining, informative, and educational experiences with interactive installations, large-format architectural projections, and immersive environments that generate a sense of awe, wonder, and inspiration for live audiences.

Download Obscura Digital's Emergence Fact Sheet (pdf)