June 22, 2024

For 45 years, “Sunday Morning”‘s set, created by legendary CBS designer Victor Paganuzzi, has served as our backdrop. But for this year’s Design Issue, we opted for an update.  And who better to reimagine our surroundings (in virtual form) than the eminent design firm Rockwell Group?

“There were things about the ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ piece that were an immediate yes for me,” said David Rockwell, the firm’s founder and president. “When I think of it, I think of it as one of the ultimate communal rituals. And every project we do is really about celebrating a sense of ritual.

“So, we started with lots of hand sketching. And as we zeroed in on it, I realized there was an opportunity to do something that had the kind of simplicity and restraint of the original, but have a kind of exuberance and theatrical flair,” he said.

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Members of the Rockwell Group Team reimagining the “CBS News Sunday Morning” set. 

CBS News


Rockwell knows theatrical flair; he designed Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, home of the Oscars since 2002. 

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A view of the stage at the 81st Oscar ceremony in Hollywood, February 22, 2009, at the Kodak (now Dolby) Theatre. David Rockwell was the first architect invited to design the set of the Academy Awards. 

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images


His vast portfolio spans hotels, stadiums, stage sets, libraries, playgrounds, airport terminals, bars and restaurants – more than 500 restaurants – since founding the firm in 1984, 40 years ago.

Some Rockwell trademarks? Screens, vibrant and playful; stairs, sweeping and stately; and light, deep, warm, and rich.

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Rockwell Group’s design for the New York restaurant COQODAQ, inspired by traditional Korean patterns, combined with art nouveau and strategic lighting. 

Rockwell Group


Rockwell said, “My earliest thoughts about lighting in restaurants comes from candles and thinking about restaurants in Guadalajara, where I lived, where the candle was like a hearth. You can’t always replicate that, but it’s not a bad place to start.”

It’s not all glitzy restaurants and luxury hotels. This children’s hospital emphasizes color and imagination.

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A patient’s room at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., where glowing light boxes are customizable, with changing colors and animations. 

Rockwell Group


A temporary viewing platform at Ground Zero helped mourners grapple with the unthinkable in the months after 9/11. Rockwell said, “Really what was needed was a public viewing platform, so people could have this unmediated look at what really happened. That temporary structure was definitely one of the most powerful things I’ve ever been involved with.”

Rockwell’s firm, which started out with fewer than a dozen people, has grown to some 330, with outposts in L.A. and Madrid.

“I’m so grateful that I get to do what I do – I feel lucky every day,” he said.

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Designer David Rockwell, founder and president of Rockwell Group.

CBS News


And today, “Sunday Morning” is the grateful beneficiary of their creativity.


Rockwell Group’s “CBS Sunday Morning” Project Description

Inspiration and Context

For the 2024 Design Issue, “CBS Sunday Morning”‘s annual broadcast of stories from different creative worlds, Rockwell Group wanted to welcome the program’s audience into an imagined world built from foundational elements of the show. “CBS Sunday Morning” and our studio share the belief that the audience is at the center of all we do, and we both use storytelling as a tool for connection.

Since its first broadcast in 1979, “CBS Sunday Morning” has been a weekly ritual for millions of people who find meaning not just in the day’s headlines, but also in the blueprints of culture laid out by contemporary architecture, performance, and the visual arts. This ritual has endured in large part thanks to “Sunday Morning”‘s original set design by legendary scenic designer Victor Paganuzzi, who laid the groundwork for a program that offered viewers solid ground and nuance for nearly five decades. Similarly for 40 years, Rockwell Group has created ritual experiences for people across all typologies – no matter the project, we approach everything from a theater design perspective, emphasizing narratives that speak to the human experience and make every audience feel considered.

The sun is “CBS Sunday Morning”‘s longstanding symbol; it fittingly represents the energy and insight it exchanges with its viewers. Over the years, more than 9,000 viewer-created suns have been used in the show – a testament to how the show resonates with viewers of all ages. They also reflect the belief that the ritual of making connects us across time and space. We are taking part in this tradition with our own sun, made in-house by a cross-disciplinary team.

Rockwell Group was initially inspired by the French curve – a form that combines the elegant and the practical, the emotional and the mathematical. French curves have been used for over a century in manual drafting and fashion design to draw smooth curves of various dimensions. From there we developed other concepts. Each sun has its own story and together this tapestry becomes the fundamental building blocks of our design.

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Design concepts for Rockwell Group’s reimagining of the “CBS Sunday Morning” set. 

Rockwell Group


Design Concept: Elements of Architecture

Our design speaks to the magazine and museum-like approach of “Sunday Morning,” and the exchange between the show – the world’s stories – and its viewers; the levels of depth and humanity that can be expressed through transparency and restraint; and the solid ground the show offers even when we feel chaos in the world. Our design is a journey through four forms which make up the foundation of architecture, built and detailed with artwork suns created by CBS viewers over the show’s history.

We created four design concepts for the show:

Planes and Screens: If the quickest path between two points is a straight line, the simplest architectural path is the plane, the flat or level surfaces, the crucial building block of any space. We explored the depth achieved through planes: walls, floors, and screens. Capturing light and casting shadows, these planes imbue a space with details and nuance that change over time as the sun moves. Our screens are delicately but unmistakably etched with a sun story, informed by the show’s history and its exchange with audiences.

Columns: The simple stacked arrangement of the column allows it to perform an essential task: bearing the load of a building. Over centuries columns and our use of them have evolved, creating restraints for designers that when embraced can become opportunities. Our columns are cut metal, illuminated from inside, to shine with the light of viewers’ submitted suns and artwork.

Domes: A curve which can support a structure or carve out space to draw the eye to the air beneath, domes have been used around the world to articulate how architecture can bend but not break – truth to the idea that good design ideas can withstand reality. Our dome, inspired by the Pantheon, includes an oculus to invite sunlight, with ornamentation surrounding the dome, and ground level, featuring suns by your audience.

Threshold: Thresholds anticipate a journey. They create an opportunity for depth, representing invitations to a new spaces, new worlds. Every ritual we design begins with that entry and invitation. Here you are welcomed to an ornamental tunnel, a network of suns brought together through simple elegance to achieve depth. At the end of the tunnel we have placed our contribution to the constellation of suns, a sun made of the French curve, combining the emotional and the mathematical.

Narrative and stories find their meaning in the arrangement: as the show progresses, the stories and suns build upon what came before. Like Gaudi’s nature-inspired approach to structure, our design facilitates dialogue between earth and sky, shadows cast in patterns of memory.

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Jane Pauley on the Rockwell Group’s virtual “Sunday Morning” set. 

CBS News


      
For more info:

  • Rockwell Group
  • Photo credits: Peter Mauss, Frank Oudeman, AVABLU, Nikolas Koenig, Michael Kleinberg, Emily Andrews, Michael Stavaridis, Scott Frances, Eric Laignel, Jason Varney for Rockwell Group, Albert Vecerka & Blandon Belushin

       
Story produced by Robert Marston. Editor: David Bhagat. 

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