Anthony Gagliardi, Dorian Booth, and Isabella Calidonio Stechmann of the Brooklyn-based design practice Almost Studio are the winners of the 2021 Ragdale Ring competition for That’s a Wrap, a series of highly adaptable, mobile stage sets that respond to this year’s (and next year’s) competition theme, Mobility.
Hosted by artist residency nonprofit the Ragdale Foundation, the annual international competition—now in its ninth year—seeks singular designs for ephemeral outdoor theatrical backdrops that are then fully realized at Ragdale’s 5-acre campus and artists’s community in Lake Forest, Illinois, for summertime concerts, performances, and events. Submissions to the competition are expected to be large-scale, site-responsive, and “explore the intersections of architecture, sculpture, landscape, public art, and performance disciplines,” per the Foundation. Experimental, contemporary reinterpretations of the original Ragdale Ring, a 1912 garden theater designed by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw for his playwright wife, Frances, are highly encouraged. Competition winners receive a production grant to construct the temporary installation along with an on-site design-build summer residency for a team of up to ten people. Summer 2021 performances at Ragdale that integrate That’s a Wrap are set to kick off on June 16. The final event in the Ragdale Rings series is scheduled for September 18.
Roll Play by Office of Things, a collaborative design studio with offices in Brooklyn, Chicago, and Charlottesville, Virginia, was named as a competition finalist while Going Nowhere Fast from Sarah Aziz & Lindsey Krug was bestowed with an Honorable Mention by the 2021 competition jury. Said the jury of That’s a Wrap:
“That’s a Wrap is a timely and poignant solution to the questions posed for this year’s Ragdale Ring competition. With the pandemic still looming, and the notion of artists presenting performative works at a venue that needed to be flexible in both physical structure and concept, Almost Studio truly embraced the challenge with their interpretation of mobility. The range of projects this year is a testament to the relevance of the work of designers, and we are honored to support the vision of this standout proposal.”
Almost Studio was co-founded in 2018 by Gagliardi, currently an instructor at the Syracuse University School of Architecture, and Booth, currently a lecturer at the Yale School of Architecture. (Both received their respective Masters of Architecture from Yale.) Joining Gagliardi and Booth on the Ragdale Ring Team project team is Almost Studio’s junior designer, Calidonio Stechmann, who is a graduate of the Syracuse University School of Architecture.
According to the designers:
“Three bittersweet words that any performing artist eagerly awaits—‘that’s a wrap’—initiates a transition from one phase to another, from the ending of production to the beginning of the selection, editing, and sharing process. Likewise, following the globally turbulent year of 2020 that has affected so many so deeply, That’s a Wrap represents a turning point. It is a signifier that we are nearing the completion of one phase together—a vaccine has been established, an election has been confirmed, a heightened social awareness is growing — and we must now begin the process of post-production. What have we learned? What do we keep? What edits must be made? Together, it is necessary to begin this chapter of reflection.”
The team added: “We are particularly excited to not only collaborate with the impressive schedule of curated performances, but also to share the space with local schools and community members in this transitional moment as we move to reconnect after such a demanding previous year. Our hope is that this space can be one of much-needed reflection, rejuvenation, and recreation for all this summer. That’s a Wrap.”
As mentioned, the theme of the 2022 Ragdale Ring competition has also been announced as Mobility. The deadline for design proposals is January 7, 2022. The winner of the 2020 Ragdale Ring competition was Drawing Fields by Columbus, Ohio-based Outpost Office.