“Bill-ding Boards”—a term coined by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in their 1984 book A View from the Campidoglio—are very in these days. A Bill-ding Board is what it sounds like: a building whose facade effectively functions as a billboard (building + billboard=Bill-ding Board), typically sited on a major thoroughfare or prominent public space. The Sphere in Las Vegas, recently reviewed by Ryan Scavnicky for AN, is just the latest example of the Bill-ding Board’s renewed relevancy as an architectural phenomena in the attention economy.
At 8410 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, Farshid Joe Shooshani, a former chair of the Beverly Hills Planning Commission, is determined to build Los Angeles’s own version of what Las Vegas enjoys. This fall, Shooshani submitted plans to the City of West Hollywood for a 2,500-square-foot, orb-shaped broadcast studio that doubles as a new, high-tech, orbital, digital billboard clad with LED panels for displaying art and advertising. The design is by Saee Studio, a firm founded by Los Angeles architect Michele Saee.
At 49 feet in diameter it would front Sunset Boulevard and create an open public plaza dubbed by its backer Sunset View Plaza. The small-ish sphere would have a green wall, a viewing area, and a public rooftop terrace.
In materials submitted to the city planning commission, the design team named historic and contemporary references informing the work, among this Borromini and his geometrical inventions in Boullee, Buckminster Fuller’s philosophy of “doing more with less”, and Haus Rucker’s “exploration of play.”
Sandwiched in between the Pendry West Hollywood Hotel and Sunset Plaza Hotel, the Mini-Sphere’s construction would require the demolition of an existing billboard, cafe, and newsstand. A Viewing Corridor would wrap the perimeter of the site allowing the public to get an up close view of the structure and its graphic projections, which will include documentary footage telling the history of billboards on the Sunset Strip, a montage that would be curated by Shooshani’s son, Aaron. Also on site will be the Orb Information Center, at street-level the space where visitors can begin their experience.
“The idea of entering a sign and interacting with it was the initial spark that led to several diverse possibilities,” Saee said. “We designed the sphere as an occupiable billboard that gives the structure an intriguing quality suitable to a variety of experiences. The spherical digital LED billboards and two bookend structures, one of which is also a digital LED billboard, are a gateway to a space of exploration, public interaction, and wonder transforming the site into an engaging, architectural intervention in a location surrounded by tall buildings.”
The orb structure would be constructed using perforated stainless steel. A powder coating system will protect the images and the use of glass, concrete, and translucent resin makes the object highly visible. Mindful of light pollution the design team has proposed using double-glazed, fritted, tempered panels to minimize heat and reflection. The LED component would be designed to meet city requirements.
“It is critical to our design to make sure that the vision of glowing floating sphere is preserved,” Saee added. “Therefore, we shall allow the indirect lighting under the pebble like seating, the pylon sign, time-line displays, orb, and landscaping lights to avoid light pollution and to create a calm and peaceful atmosphere for the visitors to enjoy.”
As reported by AN, Mini-Sphere is the latest custom designed billboard slated for West Hollywood. In recent years, Tom Wiscombe Architecture (TWA) beat out Zaha Hadid Architects, Gensler, and others to design a new billboard for the strip. Other designs by Glenn Kaino, Eric Owen Moss, Greg Ito, OFFICEUNTITLED, Atelier Hitoshi Abe, and others are also slated for construction in Los Angeles.