David Korins creates a swirling portal into the future for 2022 Oscars ceremony

Featuring 90,000 Swarovski Crystals, the set at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles offered a message of inclusivity and community from a utopian future of 'elegance and electricity'.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Mar 28, 2022

A dynamic geometrically-themed stage design described as a 'portal into the future', set the scene for the 94th Academy Awards ceremony on March 27, which saw the Oscars return to their traditional home at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Following last year's hybrid event, which was partially conducted at a Rockwell Group-designed set at Los Angeles Union Station, the organisers behind the 2022 Oscars enlisted the talents of Emmy Award-winning American designer and creative director, David Korins, and his eponymous New York-based studio, who returned to helm the ceremony’s set design for the second time, the first being in 2019. Charged with the task of creating a venue worthy of the global television event’s return to form with a live audience, in the wake of a pandemic-constrained previous edition, Korins’ design presented a message of “inclusivity, community, and a world that boldly and unapologetically glows with positivity from the inside.”

  • The event marked Korins’ second outing as the set designer for the Oscars, following his first time in 2019 | 94th Academy Awards Set Design | David Korins Design | STIRworld
    The event marked Korins’ second outing as the set designer for the Oscars, following his first time in 2019 Image: Kyusung Gong © A.M.P.A.S.
  • The designers extended the stage into the audience in order to foster a sense of community and togetherness | 94th Academy Awards Set Design | David Korins Design | STIRworld
    The designers extended the stage into the audience in order to foster a sense of community and togetherness Image: Richard Harbaugh © A.M.P.A.S.

Korins' other credits as a set designer include high-profile commissions such as the celebrated Broadway musicals Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen, in addition to stage designs for major musical acts such as Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, and Elton John. The initial form of his science-fiction inspired stage for the Oscars featured a hemispherical dome, which in Korins’ view, outlined “a modern portal into the future where we trade in the currency of elegance and electricity.” In a statement on Instagram offering a sneak preview of the set prior to the event, Korins confessed, “The Academy Awards are rare in that there is no 'script' or prescribed narrative to drive the look of the show. At what feels like an extremely important time for humanity, I feel so humbled to be making a statement about where we are headed in the future with this design."

Korins sought to create an immersive experience with his set design, by combining Hollywood glamour with optical illusions | 94th Academy Awards Set Design | David Korins Design | STIRworld
Korins sought to create an immersive experience with his set design, by combining Hollywood glamour with optical illusions Image: Kyusung Gong © A.M.P.A.S.

Optical illusions of form, depth, and forced perspective were created within the dome through a pair of illuminated floating orbs decorated with strands of Swarovski crystals and LED lights, alongside other design elements. Korins collaborated with the Austria-based glass and jewellery producer in realising the set, which altogether incorporated over 90,000 Swarovski Crystals. The spheres and dome alone made use of 12,940 crystals and 252 suspended strands, whose cumulative weight amounted to 1,350 pounds. Individual strands were hung from a single point above the stage and faced with over 450 feet of LED tape. This marked the 14th instance in which Swarovski Crystals have brought the Oscars stage to life.

  • Illuminated floating orbs embedded with Swarovski Crystals create illusions of shape and depth within the design’s hemispherical dome | 94th Academy Awards Set Design | David Korins Design | STIRworld
    Illuminated floating orbs embedded with Swarovski Crystals create illusions of shape and depth within the design’s hemispherical dome Image: Terekah Najuwan © A.M.P.A.S.
  • The show featured multiple colour schemes and scenography changes over its duration | 94th Academy Awards Set Design | David Korins Design | STIRworld
    The show featured multiple colour schemes and scenography changes over its duration Image: Kyusung Gong © A.M.P.A.S.

"The beautiful thing about working with Swarovski Crystals is that you use them just the way they are. They shine and sparkle the way you want them to. With Swarovski Crystals, there's no need for scenic enhancements, what you want to do is accentuate what they are already meant to do and that is capture and reflect light beautifully," Korins mentioned in an official release. Hundreds of artisans were involved in the process of assembling the stage and scenography, which also contained a dazzling crystal curtain composed of approximately 80,000 Swarovski Crystals that set the scene alight. The production designers also extended the stage forward into the first few audience rows, to fashion an immersive spectacle that celebrated the spirit of togetherness.

  • Over 90,000 Swarovski Crystals were used throughout the design | 94th Academy Awards Set Design | David Korins Design | STIRworld
    Over 90,000 Swarovski Crystals were used throughout the design Image: © Linda Pianigiani
  • Hundreds of artisans were involved in the process of assembling the set | 94th Academy Awards Set Design | David Korins Design | STIRworld
    Hundreds of artisans were involved in the process of assembling the set Image: © Linda Pianigiani

Korins explained in a press event prior to the ceremony, "We are decking over large parts of the audience and showing a picture of the future that feels super exciting and forward. Every single element of the scenery has got a piece of light inside because our version of the future is light-emitting and hopeful." He continued, “We have pushed the winner’s circle and some of the performers and presenters out into the audience. So the people who are presenting and accepting awards or hosting the show will be engulfed by the audience and their peers. We feel that is a really incredible message to push out into the world."

  • Undulating installations were part of the scenography changes that transformed the theatre throughout the ceremony | 94th Academy Awards Set Design | David Korins Design | STIRworld
    Undulating installations were part of the scenography changes that transformed the theatre throughout the ceremony Image: Kyusung Gong © A.M.P.A.S.
  • As per Korins, nearly every element in the set has a piece of light within it | 94th Academy Awards Set Design | David Korins Design | STIRworld
    As per Korins, nearly every element in the set has a piece of light within it Image: Kyusung Gong © A.M.P.A.S.

Multiple scenography changes were also part of the overall display, with unique colour schemes and highlight elements introduced at various junctures during the show. Channelling all the elegance, drama, and glamour of Hollywood, the highlights in question included undulating installations depicted as a "whimsical marriage of masculine and feminine," and bold triangular forms that doubled as lighting design elements. The set also exhibited two new reinterpretations of the iconic Oscars statuette - one with a spiralling abstract profile, and the other comprising of stacked layers that outlined the statue’s immediately recognisable form.

  • Bold triangular forms add a geometric sensibility to the ensemble and double as lighting design elements | 94th Academy Awards Set Design | David Korins Design | STIRworld
    Bold triangular forms add a geometric sensibility to the ensemble and double as lighting design elements Image: Kyusung Gong © A.M.P.A.S.
  • The design also featured reinterpretations of the iconic Oscars statuette | 94th Academy Awards Set Design | David Korins Design | STIRworld
    The design also featured reinterpretations of the iconic Oscars statuette Image: Terekah Najuwan © A.M.P.A.S.

Among the glittering list of winners on the night, Canadian designer Patrice Vermette’s work on Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Dune earned him the award for Best Production Design at the ceremony, over other stellar nominees such as Grant Major for The Power of the Dog and Stefan Dechant for The Tragedy of Macbeth. Regarding the challenges of undertaking such a prestigious commission and setting the scene for the Oscars' triumphant homecoming, Korins noted: "The deadline is super tight. Ultimately, we are making a television show, and more than that, we are making a television event. We are really creating an immersive experience in this room. I am taking every single thing I have learned - whether it’s from a rock concert, or an immersive experience, or a piece of theatre, and throwing it all in. Moving seamlessly from one look to another, we are doing all the best tricks that theatre can do (obviously the scene changes), and all the best tricks that film and television do.”

  • Korins’ original rendering of the set | 94th Academy Awards Set Design | David Korins Design | STIRworld
    Korins’ original rendering of the set Image: Courtesy of David Korins
  • The award-winning designer and creative director describes his set as a ‘dynamic portal to the future that trades in currency of elegance and electricity’ | 94th Academy Awards Set Design | David Korins Design | STIRworld
    The award-winning designer and creative director describes his set as a ‘dynamic portal to the future that trades in currency of elegance and electricity’ Image: Courtesy of David Korins

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