Billboards exist to attract attention. And, thanks to clever advertising techniques and seductive imagery, they often succeed. But while the imagery of billboards is optimized to lure eyeballs, the armature that holds that imagery is pretty much invisible. So when ACE Advertising and the City of West Hollywood commissioned architect Lorcan O’Herlihy’s to redesign a billboard on the city’s famous Sunset Strip, he decided to focus on making that armature a more integral and interesting part of the billboard.
“The structure itself is a kind of throwaway,” says O’Herlihy. “It’s just tubes.” The thought of reimagining that structure intrigued him. O’Herlihy’s firm has garnered awards and renown for its multi-family and institutional work, but he and his team see projects like this one as opportunities to rethink the mundane, utilitarian infrastructure that’s become so ubiquitous in our cities. “We think that architecture can be applied everywhere, including billboard structures,” he says. “We felt that was an area to speculate, that you could actually look at the structure as being an important design element,” he says. “We wanted to make this thing an architecturally inventive idea.”
O’Herlihy calls the structure they came up with a “wishbone.” We think it looks a bit like a massive blue paper clip that’s been bent open. You can see it for yourself, near the corner of Sunset and La Cienega Boulevard—the bright, cobalt-blue cylindrical trunk pops straight out of the ground, rises about 30 feet, and then splits into two diagonal branches that bend over the street before cutting back horizontally. These cantilevered arms become the base of two signs, each 14 feet by 48 feet, that are oriented toward the busy boulevard below.
A short ways down the strip, a second billboard has just been constructed. Its trunk-like base is triangular in form, and it’s currently awaiting a shiny gold paint job. Two more billboards are in the works, both along the Sunset Strip. For O’Herlihy, the billboard-heavy corridor is the perfect place to reimagine this overlooked element of the built environment. “There’s only a few places in the United States where the billboard really has a home: Las Vegas, Times Square, and the Sunset Strip.”