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PSU Architecture class designs and builds new entry gate for Pickathon music festival
Author: Karen O'Donnell Stein
Posted: July 22, 2013

PORTLAND, Or. (22 July 2013) – This summer’s Pickathon roots music festival, taking place August 2 – 4 at Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, Ore., will be marked by the addition of a graceful, 600-square-foot bamboo structure at its main entry point, designed and built by a Portland State University School of Architecture studio class. 

Pickathon organizer Zale Schoenborn wanted to set a magical tone for visitors the moment they set foot on the farm. 

"We think of the Pickathon in terms of the pursuit of creating a musical fantasy land where the nexus of music, art, design, community, sustainability, and food/drink come together in one place.  There is no end to the depth of the experience one can create and we always find ourselves constantly reevaluating our conceptual underpinning as well as looking for interesting new creative partners looking to do signature work."

He turned to Assistant Professor of Architecture Travis Bell, who teaches design and sustainable architecture at PSU and had attended the festival in previous years. Together, they came up with the concept for this student project, which would be first developed as a sketch proposal in a Winter term studio class and then refined and built in a Summer term design-build studio course.  

The Winter class charged students with the task of conceiving threshold designs to meet Pickathon's specifications, and the results included sculptural forms in a range of materials and themes, from the practical to the poetic. 

Scale model of Pickathon threshold structureKeeping the desires of the client in mind, the nine students and eight volunteers in Bell’s Summer studio class launched into the task of consolidating and refining these ideas until they had a plausible proposal to present to Schoenborn and his team. Many hours were spent examining the Happy Valley site, interviewing the festival organizers, watching musical footage, and researching possible building materials. Schoenborn was impressed by what he saw and gave a nod to one of their designs, and the class moved forward. 

Next, after much investigation and having settled on bamboo as a potential building material, the students made contact with the Bamboo Garden in North Plains, Ore., and spent a full day harvesting nearly 700 canes of the fast-growing, sustainable wood. 

Now, the “build” phase begins. For the last two weeks of July, a crew of 17 students are artfully bending and binding the 20-foot tall bamboo stalks together and staking them into the ground to form an elegant threshold experience for all festival-goers. The group is also hard at work creating a related structure to house the “Campground Host,” an information center where attendees can go for assistance with finding and getting settled in a campsite.  

“It is rare to get the opportunity to engage the entire process of making architecture,” said Bell, “from the conceptual and artful process of design to the physical work of gathering materials and the craft and construction of the idea. With this project, students have been able to better grasp the full implications of building human spaces, which is likely the most critical piece of knowledge in the pursuit of sustainable design.”

Bell continued, “We have been so fortunate to work with the folks at Pickathon because they have been engaging these same ideas and asking the same questions in making their music festival: ‘How can we create a truly remarkable experience in an environmentally responsible way?’” 

When the structure is complete and the Pickathon grounds open on August 2, festival-goers will enter beneath the canopy of gently arching bamboo, reminded of the fact that when they emerge on the other side, they will find themselves in a world quite apart from that of their everyday lives. 

Images of the project as it progresses can be found at