There is a lot to look at in Sin City, but the columns in the lobby of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas are truly marvelous. Conceived and designed by architect David Rockwell, there are eight columns in all, each standing 12 feet tall and wrapped with digital screens displaying content 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. “Every time you come back, it’s a new experience — whether you were here in April and come back in December, or whether you were here at noon one day and come back at four the same day,” says Lisa Marchese, chief marketing officer of The Cosmopolitan.
The striking giants would be a powerful advertising tool, but ads are banned. That’s right. There is actually surface in Las Vegas that is ad free, and it is going to stay that way, according to Marchese, who insists, “We are dogged in making sure the columns don’t become a commercial platform.”
Why not? “Las Vegas on a whole tends to be a market that’s very loud. It’s very aggressive with outdoor advertising, with pamphlets in your room. It bombards you at every turn, so we wanted to take a different approach,” Marchese says, noting that all of The Cosmopolitan’s digital surfaces, including the 65-foot marquee and two wrappers on each side of the building, are free of marketing messages.
Instead, the digital columns — and other digital assets throughout the property — are used as a canvas for art. The Cosmopolitan works with Chicago’s Digital Kitchen to curate the content, which ranges from ambient to active. You might see anything from slow flowing liquid to dancers jumping from column to column. “Over the course of the afternoon, it gets a little more energetic, a little more vibrant,” Marchese says of the digital exhibit.
Some of the art is procured from New York City’s Art Production Fund and includes original works The Cosmopolitan commissions from the nonprofit organization known for helping artists realize difficult-to-produce works.
Digital Kitchen has also produced content for the columns, with the video “52 Stories” being the agency’s most recent production. “The lobby displays were transformed into a series of elevators, filled with a cast of eccentric characters in 20 vignettes,” says Digital Kitchen’s executive creative director Anthony Vitagliano. “Where are they going? Where have they been? The viewer is presented with only a brief glimpse of each story, leaving the rest to the imagination.”
The Cosmopolitan was so pleased with how “52 Stories” turned out that it cut the video down to a 30-second commercial, which is currently airing on television. Additionally, the resort temporarily created a piece of live art, constructing a replica of the elevator seen in “52 Stories” in the hotel, and encouraging guests and visitors to create and photograph their own scenarios.
It’s not a stretch to say that The Cosmopolitan, with its contemporary and inventive approach to hospitality, is an art gallery. Even the parking garage has been turned into a space celebrating creativity, with artists Kenny Scharf, Shepard Fairey, Shinique Smith and Retna painting vivid wallscapes on each of the four floors.
While the wallscapes are static, the digital columns and other digital surfaces need to be fed constantly, and Marchese acknowledges that sourcing digital content as well as producing original work and then scheduling it takes a lot of effort. “It is probably the reason other hotels don’t do it. It is a commitment of time and resources, but I think for us it is distinctive. It has gotten a ton of play, and we are very proud of it,” Marchese says. “When we think of the kind of guest we want to attract, we think they really value that commitment to creative.”
The beauty and artfulness of The Cosmopolitan’s digital columns hasn’t gone unappreciated by the wider world. In fact, the digital displays have won recognition for The Cosmopolitan and Digital Kitchen, snagging the Digital Design Grand Prix at Cannes last year.
Going forward, The Cosmopolitan’s digital feast for the eyes will evolve with art designed to be even more engaging. “Currently, we are exploring new concepts that integrate more guest interaction, tell a longer-form narrative, and extend to more parts of the stay,” Vitagliano says. “We are also exploring ideas that allow guests to be more involved in the creation of art.”