The project is a temporary outdoor performance pavilion for the Ragdale Foundation, an artist colony 30 miles north of Chicago in the community of Lake Forest, Illinois.
Departing from the convention of the bandshell structure and stage most commonly deployed in this setting, Rounds establishes a whimsical and inhabitable performance surface.
Through its multiplicity of surface undulation types and sizes, Rounds encourages a multiplicity of performance types, performer to audience relationships, stage arrangements, and seating options, generating a versatile outdoor venue and a fully encompassing experience. Acting as a piece of architecturally-scaled garden furniture, the project compliments the beautiful existing landscape and natural prairie setting and can be enjoyed by both visitors on special occasions as well regularly by artists in the residency program as they reflect and nurture their creative efforts.
Small-scale undulations in the ring surface act as a lounge spaces for viewers during performances, or artists to contemplate their work during non-performance times. Mid-scale undulations in the surface provide entrances to the inner space of the ring, while also providing smaller scale protected stage areas. The largest undulation is designed for the main stage area, a stage that can be broken down into smaller parts and distributed around the ring for several concurrent performances.
Rounds also learns from the history of theaters in the round. Theaters in the round bring the performers into the same space as the audience, allowing for a more dynamic relationship between stage and seating, between performer and viewer. With a variety of possible stage locations depending on performance type and curator vision, performers and viewers alike can perform, sit and lounge within the ring as well as perch themselves all along the ring surface.
As the competition winner, SPORTS was awarded the Adrian Smith Prize, which included a production grant and 3-week residency at Ragdale in which SPORTS’ team constructed the project. SPORTS collaborated with Arup Chicago to devise a construction strategy that was simple yet robust. The project was modeled digitally and the geometry was extracted for CNC-cutting, in order to create a plywood structural grid system. The project is constructed of 48 gridded structural wedges made of 3/4”plywood. Due to the fact that the project is circular in plan, some of the wedges are singly curved (curving in plan), while others are doubly curved (curing in plan and section), which presented an interesting challenge for fabrication. Once the 48 wedges were connected, the project was clad in 3/8” bendable plywood, primed, and then finished with an elastomeric stucco. This finish is a mint green color, allowing the ring to develop a whimsical and low-contrast relationship with the existing landscape. The thickness of the finish provides for seamless and monolithic look to the surface, while the texture reinforces the project’s attitude of playful discovery.