Image via Nick DeLuca

The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics is pulling out all the stops to make City Hall more engaging. The third floor mezzanine is usually a desolate and cavernous space but with help from the likes of the Stairs of Fabulousness, posing mannequins and the #WickedCoolTree, the primary entranceway to Boston’s municipal epicenter is now a light show.

City Hall’s holiday tannenbaum, currently emblazoned in festive lights with an appropriate hashtag symbol on top, doubles as a lightning rod for civic engagement. Not surprisingly, it’s an experiment cooked up by the New Urban Mechanics, who have managed to increase the conversations between city government and its people, as well as beautify a public space known notoriously for being hideous.

“Visitors to City Hall will be delighted by the #WickedCoolTree, and it will also be a great way for virtual visitors to engage,” said Mayor Marty Walsh. “This is a unique and innovative way to ramp up the holiday spirit in Boston.”

Image via Nick DeLuca

Here’s how the #WickedCoolTree works: Users need only tweet a color, or series of colors, and attached the trend #WickedCoolTree. In real-time, the lights on the tree will change from its current illumination to the one most recently tweeted – it can accommodate up to 16 million different color variations. If you head over to City Hall you can actually witness bulbs in the tree go out in succession, giving it the appearance of a vibrant liquid being trained from tube.

Then, the tweeted color or colors appears and remains until someone else tweets their own respective hue of choice.

I popped over to City Hall to give #WickedCoolTree a try myself. And it didn’t disappoint.

First, I did what most people will probably do: opt for their favorite color.

On cue, the color instantly switched from the above yellow to a vibrant shade of rouge.

Image via Nick DeLuca


I then wanted to test it’s multicolor capabilities, so I hit it with blue, yellow and green.

Instead of showing up one color after another, #WickedCoolTree accommodated all of them at the same time.

City Hall personnel and the New Urban Mechanics are expected to formally announce #WickedCoolTree on Tuesday afternoon.

They told us, though, that the tree is outfitted with 720 LED lights connected to three wi-fi enabled Arduinos (microcontrollers directly linked to the lights). Using a separate server that uses Twitter’s streaming API, the Adruinos are then able to discern the latest tweets with the #WickedCoolTree hashtag.

Once the holiday season comes to a close, City Hall plans to recycle the lights for future projects.

“Using this equipment, we visualize all sorts of things,” said urban mechanic Michael Evans. “Weather patterns, surface request trends, traffic patterns, we see a pretty easy translation to Citizens Connect data.”

NuVu Studio helped design and laser cut the accompanying ornaments.

You can even see the fruits of fingers labor by checking out the City Hall live stream of the tree here.

The New Urban Mechanics also have an imminent project in the works they hope will continue this trend of making City Hall a more engaging and accessible building. After sifting through innumerable applications, they hope to install a coffee cart to be manned by a local shop by January.

In the meantime, break out your favorite holiday carols and help enliven City Hall by tweeting your favorite colors using #WickedCoolTree.