Special Bamboo Entry to Pickathon Festival

This year the music will sound even better once you walk through the entry gate made by PSU architecture students for a design-build studio.

By Kristin Belz July 25, 2013 Published in the July 2013 issue of Portland Monthly

PSU architecture students (in a design-build studio with Associate Professor Travis Bell) teamed up with Pickathon to create a bamboo entry structure – here, in construction on the site.

When you go to Pickathon this year, there will be not only lots to listen to but also lots to look at. For the first time, the music festival’s organizers have teamed with architecture students and faculty at Portland State University to build a new, ceremonial entry gate.

Here, construction begins, with the scale model of the final design on site as reference.

The idea is to create a threshold through which attendees walk, marking their entrance into the other-world experience of mystery, magic and music that the Pickathon festival aims to be. Pickathon is an annual summer music festival held just outside Portland in Happy Valley, on the Pendarvis Family farm. Each year the festival music keeps getting better. Now the architecture has too.

If we think of music festivals, “architecture” is probably not the first word that comes to mind. But the physical environment of a music performance or festival makes a huge difference in how one experiences it. Would Burning Man be Burning Man if it weren’t in the desert?

Pickathon organizer Zale Schoenborn describes the festival as "creating a musical fantasy land where the nexus of music, art, design, community, sustainability, and food/drink come together in one place." 

PSU architecture students with the building materials for their Pickathon entry gate; they harvested the bamboo where it grew, at Bamboo Garden in North Plains.

Student architecture projects rarely go through the complete design process from conception (rough sketches and models of various ideas), through design development (scale models; plan, section and elevation drawings, plus details) to full-size, on site construction. The PSU design-build studio collaboration with Pickathon is a wonderful exception.

The students are in the midst of the two-week process of constructing the entry gate (and a "Campground Host" info center) on site. Their deadline? The Pickathon Indie Roots Music Festival opens Friday August 2. At 1:50 pm. And we all know music shows: they can't possibly start late. (The festival continues through Sunday, August 4.)

My bet is that this deadline feels different to the students than the typical studio project with its presentation of an individual project to a jury of critics – a little more exciting, a little more real? Good luck, ya'll!

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