Portland State University architecture students design and build new Treeline Stage for Pickathon music festival
Author: Karen O'Donnell Stein
Posted: August 3, 2018

Can a music festival stage make a lasting contribution to a community in need? Can a temporary structure be just as transformative as a permanent building? In the latest installment of a six-year partnership with the Pickathon music festival (August 3-6, 2018 in Happy Valley, Ore.), students at Portland State University’s School of Architecture have responded to these questions with a brand-new innovative design for the festival’s Treeline Stage—the largest in scale to date.

In keeping with the “diversion design-build” concept in use since the first Treeline Stage (2014), the stage’s building materials are being planned for reuse in constructing much-needed structures at transitional houseless villages in Portland. (Watch the story of the first Treeline Stage on Inhabitat to learn more about the “diversion design-build” ideal.)

A grove of columns

Built using more than 2,000 pieces of lumber, the stage structure features a grid of 113 monumental columns, 32 feet tall, forming a wooden grove at the edge of the forest. Firmly rooted in the undulating terrain, the columns create a labyrinthine series of intimate spaces for festival goers to explore and rest at ground level while enjoying the music. Towering above are hundreds of cross braces, evoking images of tangled limbs reaching up to the sky, offering moments of clarity within chaos. The overall structure occupies approximately 1,500 square feet, wrapping partway around the performance platform.

The Treeline Stage will hold performances by 18 world-renowned and under-the-radar musical groups including Jamila Woods, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Tinariwen, from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali, singer-songwriter Alela Diane, and soul artist Frazey Ford, to name a few. 

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.

“In the past we’ve designed objects that would rise from the earth to mark the location of the musical performances. This year we were interested in creating a fieldof experienceto that would grow to become the performance space itself.  The entire structure is designed to create layers of community.  This becomes even more poignant when you consider that the Treeline Stage is expected to continue, in altered form, to support the infrastructure at one of our local houseless villages,” said co-creator Travis Bell, assistant professor at the School of Architecture, who collaborated on the project with students and the School’s director, Clive Knights.

Pod buddies

Following the June 2017 opening of the Kenton Women’s Village, faculty from the PSU Center for Public Interest Design (CPID) conducted post-occupancy research, learning what was working and what needed support. The villagers expressed a need for storage and enclosed places to sit and talk with their case workers or visitors. 

In response to this need, Scott Mooney and a team of architects at SRG Partnership (also a Fellow of Practice with the CPID) led an effort to design “pod buddies”—storage, shade, and seating structures to adjoin sleeping pods at local transitional houseless communities following the model of the Kenton village. In addition, Mooney and his team designed an entryway and utility structure.

The creative team are exploring ways to incorporate these structures into the site design at existing and emerging houseless villages.

Andersen Construction is the project sponsor. SRG Partnership, Catena Engineers, PSU Center for Public Interest Design, and Pickathon are project collaborators with the School of Architecture on the Treeline Stage.

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 Magazine Award as well. In 2015, that year’s Treeline Stage received the Jury Award at the city’s Architecture Awards.

Treeline Stage facts & figures

  • 1,340 2x4s, 16 feet long
  • 700 1x2s, 8 feet long
  • 500 cross braces, 5 foot 2 inches long
  • 32 feet high
  • 1,500 square feet (36 by 36 feet)
  • 18 bands will play at the Treeline Stage 

Links on the POD Initiative and Kenton Women’s Village: 

Portland Mercury, June 20, 2018
The Oregonian, June 8, 2017
School of Architecture story, June 8, 2017
Portland State magazine, June 2017

Image: Danny Barnes Trio, Photo by NashCO Photo