The tower sculpture on the side of a building is hiding a secret message.

During my time at Anode, we took pride in our ability to integrate digital experiences into the fabric of a building. We wanted to have an example of that process as part of our office’s external appearance. When the time came for a makeover of the exterior of our building in 2015, we needed something to help break up the monotony of the monolithic block walls of our masonry structure. We knew we wanted a bold statement that carried with it a sense of sophistication, while also hiding a secret message that only employees and friends (who are in on the secret) could appreciate.

Our team designed a tower structure made from two large aluminum sheets. These sheets were perforated by an industrial waterjet cutter, bent on a radius, and welded to a frame.

A local sign company worked with us to fabricate the structure to our specifications and attach it to our building.

To give the sculpture some visual energy, the entire height of the tower is back-lit with RGB LED strips. The LEDs are driven through a DMX decoder. The color and brightness of the LEDs are controlled remotely through a custom user interface that was tied to our company web site. A Raspberry Pi microcomputer in the building’s server rack received schedule and color data over the internet via a custom API (that my programming team developed in-house) and passed DMX control information to the tower.

The Secret is in the Pattern Details

Many people ask about the holes in the metal surface. That’s the secret: I devised a method for the pattern of perforations on the tower to spell out “anode” in two ways: one purely binary, the other a digital representation of an analog signal: an illustrated waveform of my own voice.

Looking at the tower sculpture, you’ll notice that two distinct patterns of perforations appear over and over. These two patterns or symbols are our abstract representation of a binary zero and a binary one. A symbol that represents either a binary one or zero is called a digital “bit.”

Hole pattern representing
Binary ZERO

Hole pattern representing
Binary ONE

Reading the tower from top to bottom, there are ten rows of four symbols. With four “bits” across each row, two rows taken together equal one eight-bit “byte” or digital string equating to an alphanumeric character. In our tower sculpture, the top two rows’ bits are 01100001 which is the ASCII binary code representing the letter “a.” This convention continues down the sign with the remaining letters n,o,d, and e.

Between each of the ten rows of bits are holes in horizontal lines of varying lengths. When rotated 90 degrees as one object, these lines make up the digital representation of the audio waveform of a human voice.

That voice is yours truly speaking the word “anode.”

As of August 2019, the tower still stands at 926 Main Street in East Nashville. If you get a chance to visit, you now know a bit of trivia to impress anyone you bring with you.

I made a point to get one more selfie with my digital voice pattern on my very last visit to the office.