BY BRIAN LIBBY
This year’s Pickathon music festival, held last weekend at the Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, featured a performance venue, designed and built by students and faculty in Portland State University’s School of Architecture.
Over the weekend, the Tree Line Stage, as it was called, hosted performances by 14 different musical acts. Situated at the boundary between meadow and woods, the Tree Line Stage takes the place of the former Café Stage and offers a more spacious, yet intimate, place for attendees to experience music. Made from approximately 550 wooden shipping pallets, the stage was built with easily disassembly in mind: when the weekend was over, no trace of the venue was left behind.
The project follows on the heels of last year’s collaboration between Portland State University School of Architecture and Pickathon, when architecture students designed and built a gateway structure from hundreds of bamboo stalks. That collaboration successful enough that, when the festival needed a new performance space, Pickathon director Zale Schoenborn and fellow organizers appealed to Assistant Professor Travis Bell and School of Architecture Director Clive Knights to enlist PSU Architecture students to create the new performance space. It needed to be beautiful, temporary, and inexpensive.
“After introducing the brilliant minds of the PSU architecture faculty and students to the excitement of Pickathon last year, I hoped they would see the huge design possibilities inherent in this magical event, and begin to dream the big dreams with us,” Schoenborn says. “I secretly knew we were going to end up something that was going to blow people’s minds and create a space that offers a fantastical alternate reality. I’m so happy that this dream came true.”
The design for the venue explores the theme of diversion, drawing connections between the purpose of a pallet (to transport or carry goods) and the experience of being emotionally transported by the music.
The concept of the body, moving and dancing in response to the music, figures prominently in the design. As described in the Designers’ Statement, “individual wooden pallets join limbs in unison to make something greater, together. They embrace the earth, negotiate its topographic idiosyncrasies with their mathematical regularity by combining themselves into horizontal layers, like the muscular first tier of acrobats in a human pyramid… Flexing their bodies this way and that, catching the sunlight as it moves across their faces, filtering the light as it penetrates their ribs, they mark out a territory in which the diversion of air, by vibration into sound, and by imagination into music, can ensue.”
“Our design/build projects with Pickathon have been such a wonderful opportunity for our students to engage the full life of a piece of architecture – from concept to design development, to material sourcing, to construction, to deconstruction,” Bell says. “These students have been able to experience the magic that happens beyond the drafting board when design meets reality…albeit the amazingly, fun, creative and enthusiastic reality that is Pickathon. It has been an inspiring collaboration.”