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i/thee Curates Art and Architecture Festival at the Historic Site of Woodstock

By i/thee
Nov 14, '22 10:32 PM EST
Photo Credit: Kevin Ferguson
Photo Credit: Kevin Ferguson

Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has wrapped its inaugural design-build camp, the 2022 Bethel Woods Art and Architecture Festival. With installations curated by i/thee design collaborative, the festival brought together regional teams, including professors and student participants from Cornell University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Kean University, and Rochester Institute of Technology. The festival was conceived as a four-day exposition, focusing on creating interactive art installations that directly connect to the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair and the visitors that make the pilgrimage to the historic landscape. Modeled after the “Builder Method,” an open-source, design-build methodology pioneered by Hello Wood Studio, Bethel Woods Art and Architecture Festival intends to provide an interdisciplinary design-build platform to supplement traditional classroom education. 

The theme of the inaugural festival, “Adapt, Mitigate, Design,” asked invited design teams to engage critically with architecture’s ability to affect positive social and environmental change—both as aesthetic interventions and also as communal agents oriented toward public engagement. Rather than creating one-off installations with limited use, each pavilion was designed intentionally to accommodate core programs at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, such as performances by emerging musicians and pop-up art events. One of the explicit goals of the 2022 festival was to investigate up-cycling and adaptive use. Strategies included the reuse of existing 2021 installations and a focus on the flexibility of new structures. Projects ranged in scope and approach, manifesting in four distinct design solutions that each tackled the prompt in unique ways.

Installation #1, Frame Folly: 

Frame Folly exists as a latticework of four-inch by four-inch beams interspersed with a series of boxed frames that each orient—or reorient—the viewer’s attention to curated scenes in the landscape. The simplest of these frames manifest as plywood-clad rectangles trimmed with brightly painted bevels that focus the viewer’s attention on landscape features and passersby. Others direct attention upward toward the shifting sky. More complex forms, strategically inlaid with reflective paneling, redirect sightlines in unexpected ways—shifting the onlooker’s cone of vision up or down several feet to foster surprise encounters with fellow visitors. Designed like a puzzle that can be reconstructed and moved to focus on new landscapes, the result is a whimsical structure that works to literally, and metaphorically, re-frame relationships between our shared communal and environmental habitats. 

Design Team Leaders: Stephanie Sang Delgado and Fabio Castellanos (Michael Graves College School of Public Architecture, Kean University)

Student Team: Vitor Costa, Christopher Cabareas, Carlos Cruz, Maria Jaramillo

Installation #2, Boardwalk

Boardwalk aligns itself adjacently to a historic rock wall and barn used as infrastructure at the 1969 Woodstock festival. The project, in its entirety, is constructed out of reclaimed lumber dating over one hundred years old and uses no metal fasteners, with the intention that the structure can be easily disassembled and reassembled with no tools. Prior to installation, timber elements were collected from an abandoned building site and processed in order to remove remnant fasteners and hardware. Next, lapped notches were cut from specific pieces using a CNC router before being transported to Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Finally, onsite assembly consisted of fitting the pieces together and securing them into place with hand-stitched cables, which dually act as netted seating. Ultimately, the installation functions as a boardwalk for visitors to pace while glimpsing views of the historic Woodstock grounds.

Design Team Leaders: Dillon Pranger (Cornell University, Illinois Institute of Technology), Christopher A. Battaglia (Cornell University)

Student Team: Marlee Barnes, Maxwell Rodencal, Sophie Chen, Keygan Sinclair, Samuel Castaneda

 Installation #3, Mound:

Mound emerges from the historic Woodstock grounds as a curving ramp, which allows visitors to journey across a lawn where attendees of the 1969 festival once camped. The horseshoe-shaped plan works two-fold—inviting visitors upward where they can access views of the historic grounds while also framing a small gathering space for people to gather and mingle. When visitors walk on the sod-covered ramp, they are elevated above the ground that attendees walked on in 1969. Thus, the installation allows visitors to leave their own footprint on new ground—symbolizing the continued birth and rebirth of personal connections to the spirit of the original Woodstock festival.

Design Team Leaders: Lara Goulart and Kate Johnson (College of Art and Design, Rochester Institute of Technology)

Student Team: Jessica Vail, Erik Dugue, Quille Hughes, Raven Rivenburgh, Rob Deane, Zaheer Shujayee, Ian Luhmann, Henry Johnston, Rachel Fiorenza, Samantha Gensler, Maddy Marcus, Justin Corcoran, Katelyn Park, Julian Mika

Installation 4, Inverted Ziggurat:

The Inverted Ziggurat is a re-envisioning of Joel Kerner’s 2021 installation, a 20-foot cantilevered structure descending in two-foot increments to a four-foot core. Kerner’s original installation was covered with mirrored Mylar sheets that reflected the surrounding landscape, allowing the surface to change as the viewer moved around the installation. The 2022 re-envisioning of the installation replaced the reflective sheets with plywood panels that were then painted by Michael Randels—a local artist known for painting the murals at Woodstock 99. The installation serves to reflect the landscape of the 1969 festival rendered in vibrant tie dye, with the sunshine of Saturday flowing into the storm clouds of Sunday. 

Design Team Leaders: i/thee in collaboration with Michael Randels

Full 2022 Festival Theme: 

Adapt, Mitigate, Design  

Adapt, Mitigate, Design is a play on words, subverting the common memeification of Darwin’s survival-of-the-fittest mantra; Adapt, Migrate, or Die

 A building is not a machine operating as an individual actor within its immediate and extended contexts to be well-oiled and forgotten about. A building is more like a plant: one part of an interconnected whole, tangled inside a larger ecosystem requiring cultivation and attention. This change of metaphor signifies alongside it a paradigm shift that penetrates everything in the discipline (from the materials to the metaphors we use to design) and identifies the reconciliation of humans with nature as the primary design challenge of our age. 

 Through the prioritization of environmental, sustainable, and ecological criteria as quintessentially architectural inquiries, we pose the questions: How can we, as a society of builders, leverage architecture as an educational tool to teach users to adapt to changing social/environmental circumstances? How can design be used as an instrument to churn diverse histories, points-of-view, and cultures into productive solutions? If we so choose, can we live differently tomorrow than we do today?

The 2022 Bethel Woods Art and Architecture Festival is part of a three-year pilot to develop a signature design-build program. With major visionary support by Andrew Jacobson (a trustee at the Rochester Institute of Technology) Bethel Woods piloted a design-build camp in 2021 and held the inaugural Arts and Architecture Festival in 2022. Advance Testing, a construction materials testing laboratory, and Grimm Construction, a family owned and operated general contractor based in Pennsylvania, provided major support for students. The 2023 Bethel Woods Art and Architecture Festival will expand the program to eight invited universities with a focus on interdisciplinary design teams.

Behind the scenes of Bethel Woods Art and Architecture Festival