David Rockwell has parlayed a knack for creating “immersive environments” into a discipline-shattering firm that can move seamlessly from designing luxury hotels and the set for the Academy Awards to reinventing playgrounds and dreaming up some damn fine rugs. We asked writer Nancy Lazarus to immerse herself in all things Rockwell when the man himself took the stage last week as a keynoter at Internet Week New York.
Treading the boards, on treadmills. The “abstracted collage of a factory” created by Rockwell Group for the musical adaptation of the 2005 British film Kinky Boots.
David Rockwell gave a whirlwind tour of selected design projects during a session at Internet Week in New York. The Rockwell Group founder offered insight into how his firm’s interactive design LAB operates as they solve design dilemmas for clients in the worlds of hospitality, travel, and theatre. He also previewed pending assignments.
Rockwell observed that as his career progressed, technology has taken center stage. “The technology lab is embedded in my firm, and my work now with the lab is the most exciting. It engages technology to connect people more in real-time.” From the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas to the JetBlue terminal at New York’s JFK airport to the set design for the Broadway musical Kinky Boots, Rockwell has incorporated technology and choreography-focused designs. Below are his comments on selected projects.
On the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas:
“The promise of Las Vegas is of a place that reinvents itself, but in reality that’s not true, since visitors can’t move freely,” said Rockwell. “The hotel lobby was fourteen feet high and had massive Egyptian-style columns. Our designers worked to dematerialize the walls in an open-source way so people would have a different experience each time they entered. The casino, unlike others in Vegas, was vertical, so we blew a forty-square-foot hole through the podium.”
Rockwell Group used an “environmental choreography system and created a hall of images in the hotel lobby, to allow more personal interaction.” The effect has been “somewhat hypnotic”, though the hotel would prefer visitors to linger in the casino, he noted.