This site is located in the heart of SE Portland. Within the vibrant Sunnyside neighborhood, Portland Nursery reside just at the western base of Mt. Tabor. Around October, the winds from the Columbia River basin can pick up while the Portland rain returns. It is very likely that this event will have inclement weather but often the event is held on a sunny weekend. Much of the site faces South where the plants thrive and people can enjoy the autumn sun. Glencoe Elementary is the neighbor to the south where children can often be heard. During the event, there is a lot of foot traffic in the eastern and northern half of the site. Both green houses on the eastern border house many activities. The northern E-W path receives most traffic around the apple bin tent where guests flock to purchase many different apples.
Our team found that placing the performance space in the central area of the site near the northern E-W path and facing east, would acoustically engage the whole site. This centrality would also maximize the structure’s visibility, reinforcing the conceptual intention and therefore the event’s identity of fall-time celebration.
Our concept began with the structural expression of a leaf. Specifically one associated with the colors of fall: the Maple leaf. Like a dried and curled artifact, our envisioned canopy would wrap around the performers and drape over the audience. Using a grid of secondary members, our team aimed to convey a unique cellular structure capable of resisting lateral loads. In response to such a wide reaching canopy, we employed large, cantilevering members to provide primary support and span.
Reflections and Moving Forward
We departed our midterm with some great points to reflect on. One glaring issue was the need to make this structure portable and constructible. Some considerations of achieving this was to focus on a modular unit that can be the driving construction unit. Another idea was to break the canopy down into pre-fabricated sections that could fit in a truck and be light enough for construction. Either of these solutions would also help define a uniformity of the grid- a decision that would greatly simplify the ease of construction and de-construction.
The larger, rigid shape of the cantilever was another topic we discussed. By dividing the reacting forces of two, large columns into multiple smaller columns, the same structural support could be achieved but with a different spatial quality to the members. We also need to address lateral shear and moment forces with a different geometry or bracing that is still concurrent to the overall concept. With the tapering and splitting veins of a leaf in mind, our group looks to echo these movements in future iterations.
The stage was a topic that was pointed out as needing refinement and possible integration with canopy. In terms of coverings, we had considered rigid polycarbonate panels or an ETFE film. While not opposed to these initial thoughts, we were delighted for the suggestions of hi-tensile fabric or canvas.
Finally, the integration of the two construction systems was our hottest topic. While the current duality of the cantilever and canopy presented an interesting old growth-new leaf dynamic, it was clear that the integration of these structural members was sorely needed. Moving forward, this aspect’s demand presents us with several opportunities to resolve several of the issues aforementioned.