Now in its sixth year, Portland State University (PSU) School of Architecture students designed and built a repurposed and reusable, sky-high temporary performance venue for the Pickathon Music Festival in Happy Valley, Oregon. This year’s Treeline Stage, one of six at the festival, suggests an “orchard of towering trees,” taking inspiration from the structure of apple blossom but built from 160 wooden apple-harvesting bins.
The project includes a series of seven towers, each made of roughly 15-to-30 harvesting bins and reaching a maximum of 40 feet tall. Positioned evenly around the site, the towers offer space for audio equipment, a backstage area, and space for food vendors and seating. During the day, sunlight drapes the towers and create imposing shadows as the sky moves. Toward sundown and at night, the towers glow from the inside with projected light and controlled colored LED lights that line the interior of the harvesting boxes.
PSU School of Architecture faculty members Travis Bell and Clive Knights led the 40-plus students, alumni, and volunteers through the project’s design and construction. Their concept, “diversion design-build,” refers to mass-produced, construction-related materials that are diverted from their usually industrial purpose and then sent back for reuse following the end of the festival, like the apple harvesting bins. Previous Pickathon projects used materials like cardboard tubes (2015), wooden trusses (2017), and dimensional lumber (2016 and 2018), among others. This year, the harvesting bins were lent by a Pacific Northwest fruit producer and the wooden column structures and thousands of screws were reused from previous stage productions.
The students’ inspiration for the overall site strategy and architectural design originated from seasonal and botanical patterns, as well as the number five. The towers have pentagonal clusters of five bins, purposefully stacked to suggest a collection of blossoms in a grove of trees.
“A preponderance of five is prevalent in the life history of an apple,” the students wrote in their designers’ statement about the project. “There are five sepals around the calyx, five petals in the flower, five stigma, pistils, and ovaries. Upon pollination, these ovaries develop into seed compartments, bearing five seeds, and each pod of five flowers has been stacked to create branches across the site. Composed as a tableau of blossoms, the orchard aligns at pivotal moments behind the stage and from each of the two entrances.”