Architecture with a dual purpose

Designing for music and community

Can a music festival stage make a lasting contribution to a community in need? Can a temporary structure be just as powerful and transformative as a permanent building? 

In the latest installment of a six-year partnership with the Pickathon music festival, students at Portland State University’s School of Architecture are responding to these questions with a brand-new innovative design for the festival’s Treeline Stage.

Built with dimensional lumber, the Treeline Stage will be the site of performances by 18 world-renowned and under-the-radar musical groups including The Blind Boys of Alabama, Algerian ensemble Tinariwen, singer-songwriter Alela Diane, and soul artist Frazey Ford, to name a few. 

The design team of five architecture students, with faculty Clive Knights and Travis Bell, strove to create a stage that invites engagement and habitation by “carving out occupiable spaces, paths, and areas of destination within a dense labyrinth of columns,” according to the students’ design statement. Using clusters of columns to create monuments of various sizes, the Treeline Stage also serves as a metaphorical bridge between the distinct forest and field conditions at Pendarvis Farm, in Happy Valley, Oregon, where the festival is held. 

For each of the last five festivals, architecture students and faculty have created a breathtaking original performance structure from an industrial material, which after the festival is transformed into a new structure or returned to its original use in the construction industry, leaving no waste. This year’s Treeline Stage continues the “diversion design-build” tradition. 

Following the festival, the lumber and components will be disassembled and re-constructed into a series of community structures at the Kenton Women’s Village in North Portland, including elevated walkways, storage spaces, and an enclosed dining area designed by SRG Partnership. The Kenton Women’s Village is a transitional housing community where 14 formerly houseless women live in architect-designed sleeping pods and work with social services providers as they prepare to transition to permanent housing. Architecture students and the School’s Center for Public Interest Design also played a key role in designing and building the village and three of the 14 sleeping pods last year.

In 2017, the Treeline Stage, designed and built by PSU Architecture students, won a Citation Award in the AIA Portland’s Architecture Awards. PSU Architecture and collaborator SRG Partnership won a Gray Award as well. In 2015, that year’s Treeline Stage received the Jury Award at the city’s Architecture Awards.