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Daily Journal of Commerce: Music festival design project strikes right note for architecture students
Author: Inka Bajandas
Posted: July 29, 2013

Read the original article in the Daily Journal of Commerce here.

Portland State University graduate architecture student Jeanette Moore usually designs structures that will never be built.

That’s why she was excited this week to lash together bamboo shoots that will form an entryway she envisioned with other architecture students for the Pickathon music festival at Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley.

Moore joined a dozen PSU School of Architecture students who took a six-week summer course to design and build the bamboo structure.

Learning more about building was one of the biggest appeals of the course, she said.

“The main reason is it’s design-build. We get to design and we get to build,” Moore said. “It’s great to see your designs become a reality.”

The students tied bamboo shoots together with twine and used bicycle inner tubes to form a series of interconnected archways at the entrance of the indie music festival, which will take place Aug. 3-4. Along with building the festival entrance, the students plan to make a gazebo that will house a reception area.

Travis Bell, an associate professor of sustainable architecture, taught the course and another class last winter that produced initial conceptual designs for the project.

Along with gaining experience working on a real project, the students have learned a lot about working together, Bell said. Students in the summer course had three weeks to agree on a final design and three weeks to build it, he said.

“To be forced into coming up with a design that everybody has input on is very magical,” Bell said. “There is a collaborative ownership over the project, which is really wonderful.”

Pickathon founder Zale Schoenborn said the festival was happy to give the architecture students an opportunity to design and build a creative project. Artfully designed stages and other structures, including a series of cloth awnings suspended on strings, set Pickathon apart from other music festivals, he said.

“We build this kind of amazing experience for the weekend,” Schoenborn said. “We just suggested that Pickathon is a wonderful environment for (student) collaborations.”

It’s also great exposure for the students and a chance to see their design in use, he said.

“It’s a major entrance for just about everyone who will come into Pickathon,” Schoenborn said.

An initial consensus among the students was to build the festival entrance out of bamboo, Bell said. To learn more about working with the plant, students visited Bamboo Garden, a bamboo nursery in North Plains, and harvested the shoots needed for the project, he said.

Choosing an unconventional material helped shape the design, graduate architecture student Heidi Crespi said.

“In the end, what inspired this was how bamboo as a material works already,” she said. “We wanted to be true to how bamboo works in nature, kind of true to the organic space.”

Moore said it was interesting working with bamboo.

“This is a structure where it’s not just a box. You can play with the design,” she said. “The properties of bamboo are good for this type of structure.”

The class together came up with the idea of utilizing used inner tubes they got from a bike shop to bind the bamboo together, Crespi said.

“There’s something about them that both aesthetically and structurally works, and who can resist using recycled materials?” Crespi said.

Justin Wells, a second-year graduate student, said the class built 20 different models before deciding on a final design. They examined each idea to see if it would be feasible and structurally sound, he said.

“Buildability is probably the biggest issue we’ve had to work with on this project,” Wells said. “If you can’t build it, it is, in some respects, a waste of time.”

Graduate student Eddie Peraza-Garzon said the course is the last one he’ll take before he graduates and he appreciates the experience.

“It’s more real world where you have to actually work with a team and come up with solutions together,” he said. “It’s nice. It should be required, actually.”

He said while collaborating with other architecture students he got better at expressing himself.

“There’s little lessons when it comes to conversations with a team,” Pereza-Garzon said. “You have to learn to bring your ideas out there and talk about them, which is a big part of architecture. You have to talk to clients, talk to contractors.”

Crespi said she likes working in a team and it’s smart that the design-build format is becoming more popular with the building industry.

“It makes sense that it’s going that way. It’s more fluid and integral,” she said. “Nothing happens in a void basically.”