Portland State University

Portland State University

Portland, OR


PSU Architecture Students Design and Build Pickathon Stage using 175 Giant Cable Spools

By PSUArchitecture
Aug 16, '22 11:52 PM EST

Portland, Ore. (4 August 2022) -- As the Pickathon music festival returns from its two-year hiatus, students and faculty at Portland State University School of Architecture have created a brand-new performance venue from reused building materials at the beloved Oregon music festival, which runs August 4 to 7, 2022 in Happy Valley, Ore. 

The new Cherry Hill stage is made from more than 175 giant wooden cable reels borrowed from Portland General Electric work yards around the Portland metro area. A team of four Master of Architecture students artfully stacked the large spool-like shapes to form two towers rising 21 feet above the earth, surrounded by smaller clusters of the cable reels that create intimate enclosures behind and around the spires. Bamboo is used as cladding within the interior enclosures to suggest a textile-like surface. Additional cable reel structures have been designed and built in various locations around the stage, including a third tower nearby in a marketplace area, known as the Crossroads.

The Cherry Hill stage is designed to encourage exploration, said graduate architecture student Daniel Athay. “People are going to be able to walk under it, through it and really engage with it, seeing it from a variety of angles.”

“We were influenced by the idea of how both bamboo and mushrooms are connected underground through a complex root system, and how they seek voids in the surface to pop up vertically from the earth,” said Athay. “We’ve been thinking of these structures as echoing the behavior of mushroom clusters, organically occupying the landscape.”

“The design is pretty playful,” said Travis Bell, associate professor in the School of Architecture. “As a professor leading the project, my job is to step back and facilitate the building of an idea, so that the students have the experience of taking it from the initial creative spark to the finished product,” Bell said. 

This year’s Cherry Hill stage continues the school’s “diversion design-build” tradition of repurposing materials from other uses to create an innovative, sustainable, zero-waste performance environment at the Pickathon festival. In 2019, the last time the festival was held, PSU Architecture students created a performance venue (the Treeline Stage) using 160 wooden apple bins borrowed from an apple grower for the purpose of the festival. Previous renditions of the Treeline Stage included wooden shipping pallets (2014), giant cardboard tubes (2015), dimensional lumber (2016 and 2018) and wooden trusses (later used to build sleeping pods for homeless veterans at the Clackamas County Veterans Village). 

The diversion design-build concept was pioneered by PSU School of Architecture professors Clive Knights and Travis Bell, and refers  to the creation of a transformative performance venue from mass-produced construction-related materials that are temporarily diverted from their usual industrial purpose, and then sent back to work once the festival ends. 

Past Pickathon stages designed and built by PSU Architecture students have been recognized in the architecture community and featured in ArchDaily, Architects Newspaper, Archinect, Bloomberg CityLab, OPB and other outlets. In 2017, the Treeline Stage won a Citation Award in the AIA Portland’s Architecture Awards, and PSU Architecture and collaborator SRG Partnership won a Gray Magazine Award. The 2015 Treeline Stage received the Jury Award at that year’s AIA Portland Architecture Awards.

One of eight venues at the festival, the Cherry Hill stage will feature performances by 18 musical acts, including indie rockers Built to Spill and Hurray for the Riff Raff, rapper and Wu-Tang founding member GZA, and British Afrofuturist jazz band Sons of Kemet. 

Architecture firms Skylab Architecture, McFadin Design and EMA Architecture have also contributed designs to the Pickathon stages this year.

Read more about Pickathon.