David Rockwell’s 2021 Oscars set design celebrates old Hollywood

Staged within Los Angeles' Art Deco Union Station, the David Rockwell-designed Oscars 2021 set nods to old Hollywood and the communal arts

The Oscars 2021 set at the Union Station. It's staged in an art-deco style, with curved booths with dark blue velvet upholstery, and round tables with lamps on them. Golden details give a sense of opulence.
(Image credit: Spencer Lowell)

American architect and designer David Rockwell designed the set for the 2021 Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles.

The awards took place at LA’s Art Deco Union Station, an iconic hollywood venue that has been used as the backdrop for movies such as Blade Runner, The Dark Knight Rises and Pearl Harbor. Rockwell’s design for Steven Soderbergh’s intimate Academy Awards ceremony transformed the venue into ‘an indoor/outdoor supper club’ for nominees and their guests, a design referencing ‘the intimacy and understated elegance of the Academy’s very first ceremonies.’

Oscars 2021: discover the David Rockwell-designed set

A wider shot at The Oscars 2021 set at the Union Station. It's staged in an art-deco style, with curved booths with dark blue velvet upholstery, and round tables with lamps on them. Golden details give a sense of opulence. To the right is the stage.


(Image credit: Spencer Lowell )

The Oscars set design featured four separate spaces taking over the station’s Ticket Concourse, Waiting Room, as well is its North and South Patios. The design concept for the Oscars set offered a nod to the early awards ceremonies, which were often staged as seated dinners inside some of LA’s most iconic ballrooms.

This was Rockwell’s third Oscar set design, following his collaboration with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the 81st and 82nd Oscars at the Rockwell Group-designed Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

The eclectic set design was defined by a rich material palette featuring wood, metallic touches, saturated colours and textures, which came together to celebrate the building’s Art Nouveau architecture. Integrated technology throughout the space brought the old school Hollywood set into modern times and gave it added flexibility.

Throughout the set, Rockwell created a series of custom-designed café tables and chairs placed on the multi-tiered seating balconies, with custom-built wooden banquettes in blue velvet for the lower, stage-facing seats. Oscar-inspired lamps offered illumination throughout the set and functioned as centrepieces for the bistro-style tables. 

The Oscars 2021 set at the Union Station photographed from high ground. It's staged in an art-deco style, with curved booths with dark blue velvet upholstery, and round tables with lamps on them. The sitting arrangements are looking at the stage, which has a deep blue velvet curtain as a background with two screens on each side.

(Image credit: Spencer Lowell )

The room was framed with a series of art-deco inspired screens, installed along a raised promenade and equipped with a series of live picture frames exhibiting historical photographs from past Oscar ceremonies (during the ceremony, these screens also delivered live content that mirrored what appeared on the main screens onstage to give an immersive experience).

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The Oscars stage this year featured a circular podium in rich, inlaid wood with an asymmetric tiered design for accessibility. Two screens flanking the stage featured the same art deco motif found at the back. Completing and anchoring the stage was a blue velvet drape with oversized matching tassels.

The Union Station’s North Courtyard has wooden decking on which lounge furniture is arranged throughout the space. White, circular lanterns are hanging from trees, which are decorated with flowers.

(Image credit: Spencer Lowell )

INFORMATION

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Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.

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