Los Angeles is a city defined by its large-scale advertising — the Hollywood Sign itself was originally an ad for a 1923 housing development called Hollywoodland. It's fitting then that LA should be leading the way once again with the construction of a futuristic new digital media tower on Sunset Boulevard that brings outdoor advertising and public art together.
Digital billboards are actually banned by some cities including nearby Santa Monica, but a new initiative proves that the futuristic format isn't as dystopian as films like Blade Runner had us believe. Though conceptually and visually future-focused, the Sunset Spectacular manages to honor the iconic character of West Hollywood and the Sunset Strip.
Pete Scantland, the CEO of Orange Barrel Media (OBM), told The Guardian, “Sunset Spectacular signals a new path for both outdoor advertising and public art that is interactive, inhabitable, and programmed.”
Los Angeles–based Tom Wiscombe Architecture (TWA) is the firm behind the three-sided, full-motion digital media tower. Wiscombe explained that his team wanted to rethink the typical “sign on a stick” format. “We wanted to create a depth in the architecture that contrasts with the flatness of the billboard,” he said.
The two screens are currently showing a work called Volatile Landscapes by The Propeller Group, depicting the afterlife of unexploded bombs from the Vietnam war. After that, drivers and pedestrians alike will be treated to video works by heavy hitters including Nick Cave, Pippilotti Rist, Catherine Opie, and Cauleen Smith.
The broader project began in April 2019 when the city of West Hollywood gave the green light to the Sunset Arts & Advertising Program — an effort to reimagine outdoor advertising with innovative public-private partnerships aimed at integrating billboards, architecture, public art, and entertainment.
Since then, the council has announced that the first 21 projects have been selected. These artistic and imaginative installations will re-energize the world-famous Strip and set the new standard for digital outdoor advertising. Sunset Spectacular is the pilot project to meet that new standard and move beyond placing artworks in a traditional billboard.
Over the next ten years, the project will help digital and static signage, as well as new buildings, public space improvements, and historic preservation projects take hold across the city, funded in part by money generated by the billboards.