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Media façade: The world’s largest LED wall

If not in Dubai, where else could be the largest LED screen in the world? The facade of the world’s tallest building – Burj Khalifa – is since late 2018 also the largest digital screen in the world. A look at and behind the scenes.

The Canadian LED specialist Saco developed and installed the tallest media facade on earth. Typically modern media facades are part of the exterior design and not a massive, separate video wall. While the Burj Khalifa was opened in 2010, the media façade was retrofitted in 2018 with Saco V-Stick LED elements. A specific architectural media façade solution Made in Canada.

Emaar Properties Dubai, the largest real estate developer in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and operator of the world’s tallest building (Burj Khalifa), launched an initiative in 2017 to illuminate the eastern facade of the famous tower with a media facade. Emaar commissioned Saco to design and install a system that would seamlessly integrate into the building’s architecture.

The LED wall, which covers almost the entire height of the east side of the 828-meter-tall tower, was unveiled for the 2018 New Year’s Eve celebrations. Over a million viewers experienced the premiere on site and via an online live broadcast. The groundbreaking light show set a new Guinness World Record for the largest laser light and sound show.

Tallest LED facade in the world - Burj Khalifa in Dubai (Photo: Saco)
Tallest LED facade in the world – Burj Khalifa in Dubai (Photo: Saco)

A year later the first New Year’s Eve show drew over a million people to downtown Dubai and Burj Khalifa. This time the installation achieved two additional Guinness World Records for the largest and tallest LED facade ever illuminated.

The challenge for Saco this time was to replace the previous temporary LED system with a permanently installed system. The new permanent Saco system has 20x higher resolution than the previous system and extends over 770 meters. The permanent installation had to be planned, produced and installed in just seven months.

To remain efficient and meet the short timeline, Saco developed state-of-the-art parametric tools that they used to calculate the layout of all components of the façade, including cable routes and connections, as well as the layouts of the control rooms. By using artificial intelligence (AI), complex questions could be solved in a very short time.

The Saco in-house monitoring tool “Health Check” was used for project and operational monitoring, which monitors and controls all as-built states, real-time changes and future maintenance work.

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Pre-assembly took place on site in two warehouses in the immediate vicinity of the Burj Khalifa. To meet schedule, all LED technology was manufactured in Montreal and shipped to Dubai, with other elements and fixtures sourced and manufactured locally in Dubai. The on-site assembly was carried out by Canadian Saco fitters with the support of local partner 3S.

Another challenge was to attach the Saco LED V-Sticks to the building’s façade supports without obscuring the actual architectural elements. One of the many features of the Burj Khalifa is the incredible shine emanating from the polished stainless steel architectural louvers that run the entire length of the building. The challenge increased further because it was not allowed to drill into the slats. Special stainless steel brackets have been developed for this purpose, which are attached to the invisible rear edge. In order not to affect the shine of the architectural slats, the bracket was polished to match the surface of the slats. The result is a visually seamlessly integrated media façade that is undetectable until the lights are turned on.

It has been five years since the initial installation and Emaar is currently in the procurement process for replacing the current LED façade with an even higher resolution successor. The upgrade media façade should be in place at the end of 2024 – just in time for NYE 2024/25.

New façade and upgrade in 2024

The Burj Khalifa has a very unusual geometry, so the viewing angles are carefully calculated to get the best view of the building from the surrounding area, without disturbing the building’s residents and hotel guests. Saco had to develop six different support angles for its V-Stick LEDs.

The installation on the facade of the building was carried out entirely by industrial climbers, and each LED element was moved and installed in place by experienced technicians.

A few highlights:

  • over 28 km of LED strips (Saco V-sticks)
  • 1,139,144 RGB pixels
  • over 250 km of connecting cables
  • over 500 km of climbing rope for the 80 industrial climbers who were working on the facade simultaneously
  • The entire installation runs via a Saco Video Processor

Project was developed and installed turnkey within seven months In addition to the installation, Saco is also responsible for operation, maintenance and content for five years.

A separate agency, Saco Media Collective, was founded to create tailor-made content. They continually creates special shows for the evening shows and DooH campaigns.

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The opening of the Sphere in Las Vegas in autumn 2023 brought worldwide attention. The spherical entertainment complex was completely equipped with LEDs inside and out. LED solutions from Saco are also used on the outer shell.

Saco and the Sphere