Seven forthcoming billboard designs for West Hollywood to rival Tom Wiscombe’s Sunset Spectacular

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Seven forthcoming billboard designs for West Hollywood to rival Tom Wiscombe’s Sunset Spectacular

Rendering of Sunset3, a proposed billboard design for Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. (Courtesy LUNO design studio, Broot Studio, Orange Barrel Media)

Tom Wiscombe Architecture’s (TWA) Sunset Spectacular, a multimedia billboard towering 67 feet above 8775 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, has been turning heads since it was completed last year. West Hollywood’s fabled Sunset Strip has long played host to more common iterations of large-scale urban advertising, with massive rectangular screens and canvases hoisted above the Southern California streetscape to market television shows, luxury products, and personal brands including that of Angelyne. The street has long been a site of both significant signage and artistic output: Ed Ruscha immortalized it in his 1966 work Every Building on the Sunset Strip, in which, one Sunday morning, he photographed a mile of its elevations.

In 2019, the City of West Hollywood launched its Sunset Arts & Advertising Program, an initiative that reimagines outdoor advertising along the Sunset Strip. The program was previously set in motion with a 2015 Request for Proposals to realize a “pilot creative off-site advertising sign.” The call invited artists, architects, and designers to submit design proposals to create new billboards. Nine submissions were received, and four were ranked as finalists, including schemes from Zaha Hadid Architects and Gensler. After a round of public presentations, Wiscombe’s design was selected in October 2016. The three surfaces of Wiscombe’s vertical billboard were realized through a series of interlocking panels that together used about 100 tons of stainless steel. With a reported budget of $14 million, the structure debuted last summer, and an adjacent park area opened this May.

Recent press about the installation has drawn attention to Wiscombe and the controversy concerning his career at SCI-Arc, where he is currently on paid leave following a petition demanding his exit circulated at the California school in March. Marikka Trotter—senior associate at Tom Wiscombe Architecture, SCI-Arc’s history and theory coordinator, and Wiscombe’s girlfriend—was also named in the petition and placed on administrative leave.

TWA’s billboard is the first of many new structures to be designed by architects for the Sunset Strip. To date, the City’s Sunset Arts & Advertising Program has worked with several major media companies—Faring, Big Outdoor, Orange Barrel Media, New Traditions—which own and operate billboards and lease out their digital advertising spaces. The City of West Hollywood has set out a series of parameters for the implementation of the programming, among the stipulations is a call for artwork to be displayed on the screens in lieu of strictly promotional content, as well as limits on the boards’ luminosity. Through the program, the city hopes to further establish the Sunset Strip as a cultural location. The new structures will not only help bring art (and advertising) to the street, but will also aid in spurring new development.

The program has now gone through two additional rounds of design proposals, meaning more installations are on the horizon. Media companies partnered with designers—many of whom are L.A.-based—to imagine new locations as either freestanding structures or integrated into building facades. Top-scoring proposals from the program’s second round were announced earlier this summer, and winning teams now have until June 24, 2024, to file their design with the city’s Current and Historic Preservation Planning Division to receive approval for future construction.

“A digital arts and advertisement project of this scope and scale is unprecedented and the caliber and innovation of many of the proposed billboards are truly impressive,” the City of West Hollywood described in the brochure. “These top-scoring projects will set a standard for innovative and architecturally-integrated signage that will solidify the Sunset Strip as one of the world’s premier locations where art, culture, and advertising collide.”

Here are seven upcoming billboard design slated to touch down on Sunset Boulevard over the next few years:

(Courtesy Glenn Kaino (V | S | B | L | T | Y), Kilograph, Orange Barrel Media)

Between Dog and Wolf  | 8250 Sunset
Architecture and design: Glenn Kaino
Media company: Orange Barrel Media

The proposal by artist Glenn Kaino places two oversized foo dog statues in front of a large, portrait-format billboard. The work pulls from the writing of Jean Genet, referencing the quote “the hour between dog and wolf” or, more simply put, the hour of dusk. Foo dogs, sculptures placed outside temples in Asia, provided the inspiration for the two animals atop rectangular plinths.

The main event of the design is not the two hounds or even the billboard, but a light show that occurs at the site after dusk. The illumination moves between the statues and the trees in a playful performance of light and shadow. “This dramatic lighting will allow visitors to experience that transformative moment, when dog and wolf are indistinguishable, repeatedly through the evening hours,” a project description detailed.

(Courtesy Eric Moss Architects, Big Outdoor)

The Source | 8301 Sunset
Architecture and design: Eric Owen Moss Architects, Symblaze Inc.
Media company: Big Outdoor

The Source reinvents urban advertising giving a typically 2D object a 3D form. It takes on the harsh “multiplanar surface” of the building’s south- and east-facing facades. The screen itself meshes with the building totaling 1,500 square feet in size and spanning its four stories from base to top.

The building itself will be a new construction featuring a grid pattern across its faces. At the street level, a public plaza will be activated for hosting community events; similarly, one floor of the building will be allocated for civic use as either an art gallery or meeting room.

(Courtesy LUNO design studio, Broot Studio, Orange Barrel Media)

Sunset3 | 8495 Sunset
Architecture and design: Hodgetts+Fung, LUNO Design Studio, Greg Ito
Media company: Orange Barrel Media

This proposal combines a submission from the first round for The Now, a new building designed by Hodgetts+Fung rising at the corner of La Cienega and Sunset Boulevard, with the adjacent Pink Dot property to create a “Gateway Experience.” Featuring a curved facade, sweeping terraces, and punctuated roofs, the tiered building will be partially faced with large digital screens with additional static billboards shooting up from the lower tiers.

Advertising on the two buildings will be synced, so as images rendered on one continue over to the next screen. Visitors to the site will be able to upload a selfie to the display system and then customize an avatar which will be shown on the billboard and captured as an NFT. In another departure from typical advertising, work by artist Greg Ito will be displayed around the site.

(Courtesy OFFICEUNTITLED, Big Outdoor)

Suncienega Revival | 8501 Sunset
Architecture and design: OFFICEUNTITLED
Media company: Big Outdoor

Billboard and building become one in Suncienega Revival, a design by OFFICEUNTITLED that reactivates a vacant, low-lying structure and its accompanying advertising display with a lighting scheme that encapsulates nearly the whole structure.

“The signature design element is the architectural illumination to create the allusion of a building constructed from light that blends with the LED signage,” according to a project description.

The billboard is oriented to face outward so the display can be viewed from several locations along the streetscape. In addition to covering a portion of the classically informed, rusticated structure in LED lighting, the design also proposes repurposing the building into a creative workspace with community space.

(Courtesy Atelier Hitoshi Abe, Orange Barrel Media)

The Cape | 8873 Sunset
Architecture and design: Atelier Hitoshi Abe
Media company: Orange Barrel Media

Similar to its name, The Cape refers to the draping article of clothing worn by superheroes. It promotes human rights and will work with the Los Angeles LGBT Center on a program Heroes of West Hollywood to highlight individuals of the West Hollywood LGBT community who have left a mark on the area.

The billboard design wraps around the second floor of the existing building with a full screen at each end and a tessellating continuation of the digital advertisements will display in alternating patterns toward the structure’s edges. As stated in a project description, “The Cape recreates the dynamism of flowing fabric in architecture form, predominantly seen in other mediums such as paintings, drawings, and sculptures throughout history.”

(Courtesy Bouwman Zago, Maurice Harris, Kilograph, Orange Barrel Media)

Blossom | 8906 Sunset
Architecture and design: Bouwman Zago
Media company: Orange Barrel Media

At the intersection of San Vicente and Sunset, the three-faced Blossom billboard is fixed to a bright pink steel post with a knot on one end and an assortment of bougainvillea and birds of paradise flowers on the other, curated by artist Maurice Harris. The site is the location of the last remaining gas station located on the Strip, which has been rebranded as Blossom Energy. The project will also incorporate electric vehicle parking spaces as part of the city-wide initiative “Charge Up West Hollywood.”

“The design concept hovers between architecture and advertising; signage and sculpture,” according to a project description. “It is a complex figure, in which the pole is just as ambitious as the display above.”

(Courtesy Florencia Pita & Co, Kilograph, Orange Barrel Media)

Sunset Cinema | 9121 Sunset
Architecture and design: Florencia Pita & Co
Media company: Orange Barrel Media

Hollywood is famed as the cradle of the American film industry and the design for Sunset Cinema takes that to heart with a ribbon-like frame, reminiscent of a stage curtain, which holds up the billboard. The design will be double-sided, with the west face for commercial advertising and the east promoting art content.

An integral part of the design is its new art program, Stories of LA, which will transit clips of films and photography on the screen and showcase work by local artists including Alex Prager, Texas Isaiah, and Awol Erikzu.

(Courtesy OFFICEUNTITLED, Big Outdoor)

Streamlined Arbor | 9157 Sunset
Architecture and design: OFFICEUNTITLED
Media company: Big Outdoor

Streamlined Arbor playfully reimagines the typical billboard advertisement with a design that alludes to the Sentney Building, a Streamline Moderne–style building on the site fashioned with linear stripes and oversized horizontal windows. The existing “static” screen is swapped out for a digital one. The stand of the new advertisement board resembles branches, giving it the form of a growing tree.

“Streamlined Arbor provides a poetic abstraction of the leafy, shady recess underneath a welcoming tree combined with the machine-like modern technological references,” detailed a project description. “The existing building will conserve reverence for its original character, and is strengthened by a modern interpretation of its stylistic references.”