Internationally acclaimed architect and designer David Rockwell was selected by Academy Awards producers Laurence Mark and Bill Condon to design the sets for this year’s Oscar telecast, the 81st Academy Awards ceremony, which aired February 22, 2009 at 8pm Eastern Standard Time on ABC. The first architect to design the sets, he took his creative cue from the Kodak Theatre, which he also designed, to craft an immersive environment evocative of an intimate club.

Together with the producers, Rockwell took a fresh look at the award ceremony, and developed sets that create an atmosphere of an elegant party rather than a formal gathering. The theatre and sets were reorganized and re-envisioned to concentrate the energy for the live and broadcast audiences, powered by a visual narrative that unfolded through twelve transforming sets throughout the night.

“We created a spatial and architectural solution for the 2009 Oscars that is based on storytelling, spectacle, and community,” explained David Rockwell, founder and CEO of Rockwell Group “We wanted to use a surprising and dramatic integration of technology and movement to celebrate the awards ceremony, which has become one of the greatest shared rituals of our time.”

Rockwell created a new proscenium curtain comprised of approximately 100,000 Swarovski crystals in a variety of shapes and sizes, a nod to the high-profile fashion associated with the event. Instead of one giant flat screen to show movie clips and montages, there were five LED screens that transformed and reconfigured, as well as 20 other still LED screens, the appearance and movement of the show. An elaborate bandstand was placed onstage with a full orchestra that had the capability to move up and down the stage, and then break apart and disappear throughout the night. Rockwell also added a thrust stage to the theatre, with only four steps between the stage and seating level in an effort to bring the presenters closer to the audience. On the stage floor was an abstract floral pattern referencing the curve of the stage.

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