Reimagining the Billboard

“The sunset spectacular is really a fusion of architecture and media… sometimes we think of media as being attached to buildings, and in this case, we’re going to great lengths to integrate the media into a kind of overall civic experience.

– Tom Wiscombe, Architect, Sunset Spectacular

In May of 2021, Orange Barrel Media (OBM) and the City of West Hollywood launched the Sunset Spectacular at 8775 Sunset Blvd. Designed by architect Tom Wiscombe, the innovative full-motion digital tower merges architectural excellence with diverse public art and experiential programming to create an exciting new destination on Sunset Blvd. The project was developed through a public-private partnership with the City of West Hollywood and generates revenue for the City to reinvest in the broader Los Angeles cultural and creative community. The Sunset Spectacular is the first digital out-of-home media on the Sunset Strip in over ten years.

Ultimately, the significance of this project is to simultaneously exist in two realms: the local physical space of the Sunset Strip and the global digital space of social media. Potentially the most ‘Instagrammable’ billboard, this project will actively share the uniqueness and creativity of West Hollywood with the world.”

Following a juried design competition with submissions by world-renowned architects, including Zaha Hadid and Gensler, the City of West Hollywood selected the team of OBM and Los Angeles-based Tom Wiscombe Architecture to create the most architecturally and technologically advanced billboard in the U.S. The resulting project, known as the “Sunset Spectacular,” represents OBM’s commitment to a community-based model of outdoor media that enriches the cities in which we do business. Our one-of-a-kind media program unites relevant content with contextual design to reflect the unique character of a site and neighborhood. We begin with research into the past, present, and future of the area and collaborate with esteemed architects who demonstrate the right signature design style and civic knowledge for each individual project.

Triumphing over finalist proposals from Gensler, TAIT Towers Inc. and Zaha Hadid Architects, the winning design, titled ‘West Hollywood Belltower,’ draws from West Hollywood’s unique history and relationship with the billboard, and builds on its evolution from 2-dimensional sign to 3-dimensional icon-object.”

The Sunset Spectacular honors the rich legacy of billboards on the Sunset Strip and reflects the City of West Hollywood’s commitment to creative innovation. It received the 2017 AIA|LA Next LA Honor Award and has been nationally recognized for reimagining the possibilities of outdoor media. The project goes beyond traditional advertising to enliven the surrounding area and create an exciting new civic space that benefits the City and community. The dynamic three-sided sculptural form features two external digital displays facing east and west with an interior space that will be activated by immersive cultural programming and events. A new multi-use public plaza is at the base of the structure.

True to the values of West Hollywood, the project is sustainable both socially and environmentally. Specifically the design includes a solar array that will produce energy to operate the project, permeable ground materials for water runoff, and recyclable aluminum skin.”

The cornerstone of the Sunset Spectacular is Arts on Sunset, an ongoing public project developed by OBM and curated by Diana Nawi, Los Angeles-based independent curator and former Co-Artistic Director of Prospect.5 New Orleans, for OBM. Arts on Sunset was designed to showcase the unique works of emerging and internationally recognized artists, with an emphasis on Los Angeles-based creative talent. Programming has included commissions by The Propeller Group, Nick Cave, Pipilotti Rist, Catherine Opie, and Cauleen Smith, among others. Multimedia art, including video, animation, photography, and more, has been featured on the Sunset Spectacular’s digital screens each hour interspersed with commercial content. Art is displayed at regular intervals in 15 and 30-second segments for residents and visitors to enjoy. Content featured through Arts on Sunsetreaches an estimated audience of 500,000 people daily.

The building-sign combination clearly demonstrates the mission of the arts and advertising program to reimagine the billboard as an integrated part of architecture.”