One line of the press release stood out. Announcing the grand opening of Met Lofts, a new apartment building in downtown Los Angeles, it said the developer had spent $1 million commissioning a piece of electronic art to decorate the building. What does one million dollars worth of electronic art look like? In this case it's an "electronic carpet" at the entrance of the building, consisting of 200, 16-inch square tiles that light up when you walk across them. If that's not cool enough, the designer, Los Angeles-based Electroland, put more lights on the side of the building. So the same images of tiles lighting up when someone walks across them are broadcast for everyone to see on the side of the building. No sneaking into this place late at night.
It's not about security, of course, it's about marketing. Like the pool table in the MetLoft's mail room, it's a way for the building to stand out. I asked Forest City's Los Angeles chief Kevin Ratner why he spent that kind of money on it. He gave me an honest answer. In order to qualify for low-cost financing from the city to do the $60 million building, Ratner had to agree to put 1% of the project's cost into public art. So Ratner gets to borrow at 3.5% and the citizens of L.A. can now watch footsteps across an apartment building at night. Seems like a fair trade to me.