Sneak Peek At Oscars Scenic Design

Award-winning designer/architect David Rockwell has twice designed the sets for the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood (a venue he also designed). He's back this year to design the Oscars, taking place at LA’s historic Union Station—the largest passenger terminal in the Western United States—with a completely reimagined, both aesthetically and logistically, design concept. So when the 93rd Oscars air on Sunday, April 25, 2021 at 8pm Eastern on ABC, the Glenn Weiss-directed production—with lighting by Bob Dickinson—will look at quite different than in the past, due to the pandemic. Rockwell Group shares some facts on what to expect.

Main Room, image courtesy Rockwell Group

Design Concept: An ethos informed by the current pandemic lends itself to a design that recalls both the intimacy and understated elegance of the Academy’s very first ceremonies: seated formal dinners inside some of LA’s most iconic ballrooms. The design concept mixes rich woods, gleaming metallics, cool, saturated colors, and sumptuous textures, while integrated technology adds modern, flexible flourishes throughout.

Design Details: A series of custom café tables and chairs populate the multi-tiered seating area in Union Station’s Ticket Concourse, a spacious hall featuring towering 40-foot windows adorned with brass, massive art deco chandeliers, inlaid marble floors and hand painted mission tiles. To further underscore the sense of intimacy, the stage-facing seating for the lower-tiered seating area includes custom-built woodgrain banquettes, sheathed in blue velvet, with a warm silver metal rail. On each table, custom-designed, Oscar®-inspired lamps serve as centerpieces.

The audience will enter from house left along a raised promenade. Platinum-finished geometric screens serve to define and separate the audience area, leaving enough negative space to avoid ever obscuring the room’s existing architecture or decorative flourishes. These screens are dotted with live picture frames exhibiting historical photographs from Oscars past. During the show, these frames will deliver live content that mirrors what appears on the main screens onstage.

The main action will take place upon a thrust stage made of rich, inlaid wood in a circular, multi-tiered layout. Throughout the stage are built-in LED lights to provide subtle visual flourishes throughout the ceremony. Flanking the stage are a pair of 8’ wide LED screens attached to platinum-finished dividers, using the same geometric motif as the ones placed throughout the seating area and entry promenade. Directly behind the stage hangs a giant, velvet drape in rich Urban Blue, complete with oversized matching tassels.

Union Station’s North Patio will serve as a backdrop for pre- and post-show celebration telecasts. The outdoor area features a colorful tiled fountain and benches shaded by jacaranda trees. Multi-tiered decking, in teak woodgrain, will be installed atop all grass areas. These platforms will include a DJ booth, working bars, and plenty of lounge areas furnished in Roche Bobois’ iconic Mah Jong collection of outdoor lounge seating and their Cute Cut cocktail tables. The spaces will be imbued with a cool color palate, inspired by the existing tilework inside Union Station. The perimeter of the raised platforms will be outlined by drink rails, and the existing trees will be festooned with lanterns and baskets of flowers.

On ground level, a series of large, wooden Award silhouettes of will border the courtyard, each filled with its own floral display. High-top tables will be peppered throughout the stone patio, and a blue carpeted walkway will cut through the courtyard’s center.

This outdoor space will be open to nominees and guests throughout the ceremony, and strategically placed monitors will display the live feed.