by Anmol AhujaMar 29, 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.”
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."
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.
"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.
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."
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.
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.”