Pop superstars ABBA returned to the stage after 40 years—this time as a virtual sensation. The ABBA Voyage concert experience in London bridged the gap between the physical and digital by showcasing digital avatars of the Swedish musical group (so-called Abbatars) dancing and singing alongside a 10-piece live band. The six-year, US$175 million project involved Stufish Entertainment Architects creating a purpose-built ABBA Arena and visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic making digital twins of the Super Trouper singers. As Abba’s Benny Andersson says: “It’s a bloody good concert—that’s what it is.”
5th Most Influential Project of 2022
Canada’s Moment Factory has gained a global reputation for its dazzling displays of light and sounds. But the illuminated nightwalk Onhwa’ Lumina, which opened to the public in June, is both dazzling and deeply impactful. Nestled in a wooded area of Quebec City, the 1.2-kilometer (0.75-mile) path immerses visitors in the myths, rituals and traditions of the indigenous Huron-Wendat culture through multimedia projections, original music and powerful storytelling. During the nearly two-year development project, Moment Factory worked closely with the Huron-Wendat Nation Council and the Wendake Tourism Office, in part to ensure the high-tech approach amplified rather than overshadowed the groups’ rich past.
23rd Most Influential Project of 2022
An allegorical look at the dehumanizing effects of capitalism, the Korean drama series Squid Game became an unexpected hit when it debuted on Netflix in September 2021, raking in 111 million viewers in the first month alone. The show’s surreal visual architecture played a starring role, with each element seemingly designed for maximum impact. The show’s smashing success is fueling global appetite for more Korean exports (entertainment and otherwise), as well as heightened interest for international content.
36th Most Influential Project of 2022
Forget the hair-raising roller coasters and adrenaline-inducing drop towers of typical theme parks. In its move from screen to real life, famed Japanese production house Studio Ghibli designed a theme park that’s fantastically immersive and decidedly nature-centric. Ghibli Park, which opened in November, will eventually span five zones inspired by Ghibli films—including buildings and artifacts from Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky and Totoro, plus restaurants, shops, a playground and an indoor exhibition space. As the park’s website, aligned with the project’s ethos, bluntly states: “There are no big attractions or rides in Ghibli Park. Take a stroll, feel the wind, and discover the wonders.”
50th Most Influential Project of 2022
Burrowed into the very same Norwegian mountain that houses the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a bunker that aims to preserve another valuable asset: the world’s music. Oslo’s Elire Management Group plans to load its Global Music Vault with everything from irreplaceable indigenous music to the work of modern-day artists. And in June, it partnered with Microsoft to test a cutting-edge tech that could potentially preserve data for as long as 10,000 years, compared to about five years of protection that comes with hard drives. Microsoft’s Project Silica technology uses lasers to etch readable 3D patterns onto square-shaped glass platters that act as hard drives, each capable of storing up to 100 gigabytes of data—or 20,000 songs. Coupled with the dry, permafrost conditions and the structure itself—designed to withstand both natural and human-made disasters—the vault sounds like a pretty solid idea.
It’s no mirage. In a region known for deserts, Qiddiya Investment Co. is daring to build not just the first water park in Saudi Arabia, but the largest one in the Middle East. The 252,000-square-meter (2.7-million-square-foot) facility will span nine themed zones and offer 23 rides—seven of them with world-first proclamations. To lessen the SAR$2.8 billion water park’s footprint, the project team is putting conservation front and center. It’s estimated some rides will use 75 percent less water than their conventional counterparts, thanks to rainwater-capture systems and innovative ride design. And that impact could extend across the industry: Scott Demerau, executive chairman of Falcon’s Beyond, developer of the park’s masterplan, says the sustainability approach “will set a new standard for future parks, benefiting the world around us.”
Phil Tippett proved that a passion project deferred does not mean a passion project denied. Thirty years after first envisioning the idea, Tippett’s dream horror/fantasy film Mad God hit movie theaters in June—and quickly became one of the year’s most-watched premieres for at-home streaming. Praised by critics for its “freakish originality,” the film is a surrealist alchemy of stop-motion, live action and special effects inspired by the Academy Award winner’s lifelong career in visual effects (including work on Star Wars and Jurassic Park). Though he first made a three-minute concept in the 1990s, the project sat dormant until roughly a decade ago, when it was revived with the help of local film school students, several Kickstarter campaigns and untold hours of meticulous work—all of it an inspiration for a rising generation of filmmakers.
A stroll through an African savanna with elephants and leopards. A walk on the moon. A late-night cocktail at a Tokyo market. And would-be adventurers can do it all sans jet lag, a pricey plane ticket and a passport. It’s not travel magic. It’s Illuminarium, a U.S. venue pushing the envelope in the growing trend of sensory-driven entertainment. The first Illuminarium Experience—the USA$30 million Wild: A Safari Experience—launched in Atlanta in July 2021. Inside an 8,000-square-foot (743-square-meter) room, visitors were treated to virtual experiences projected onto walls 350-feet (107-meters) wide and 22-feet (6.7 meters) tall. The combination of video projection, LIDAR-driven interactive features and rumbling floors delivers an experience that founder Alan Greenberg calls “virtual reality without the glasses.” A second location, in Las Vegas, opened in April, and Illuminarium has also launched another show based on space travel.
Elvis Presley was a sartorial spectacle—from his wide-lapel rockabilly days to his bedazzled Vegas jumpsuit era. It’s no surprise, then, that costume design played such a huge role in director Baz Luhrmann’s biopic Elvis, released in June. An astonishing 9,000 custom outfits were created for the film, a tally about one-third higher than if the film had been made before the pandemic, as cleaning protocols meant the crew needed more costumes on hand. For Oscar-winning costume designer Catherine Martin, collaboration was the magic that made it happen. For instance, to create 36 movie-worthy jumpsuits, she called in B&K Enterprises after spotting the company’s gospel suits in the gift shop of the late singer’s Graceland mansion. And in a moment of true movie magic, that partnership connected her to Gene Doucette, a costume designer who chain-stitched Elvis actor Austin Butler’s jumpsuits—just as he once had for Elvis himself.
The singularly chic—and forever en vogue—aesthetic of French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent was deeply informed by the work of visual artists like Matisse, Mondrian, Picasso, Warhol and Van Gogh. And earlier this year, six Paris cultural institutions—Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, Centre Pompidou, Musée National Picasso-Paris and Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris—teamed up to explore the journey from inspiration to output. From January to May—timed to the 60th anniversary of Saint Laurent’s first collection—dozens of Saint Laurent’s designs were on exhibit, often alongside the very paintings they echoed. At the Centre Pompidou, for example, a 1965 color-block YSL shift featuring Mondrian-like graphic black lines stood directly beside a corresponding painting by the Dutch artist, Composition en rouge, bleu et blanc II. And at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris, a beaded saffron jacket served as a vivid Van Gogh homage, festooned with the post-impressionist’s instantly recognizable sunflowers. The project's expansive setting served as a grand, city-wide celebration: of haute couture, of fine art and of the extraordinary things that occur when a visionary follows his inspiration.