Responding to this year’s competition theme of Roots, the team’s winning design for the annual temporary outdoor theatrical backdrop takes form as an earthen mound rising from an open meadow; as proposed, the circular stage will be flanked by reed “walls” while benches will be placed around the edge of the enclosure for additional seating. The Echo concept pays homage to the inaugural Ragdale Ring, first conceived 110 years ago at the site, by exemplifying “the needs of an outdoor performance venue with the rich historical significance of the landscape surrounding the Ragdale campus,” according to the Lake Forest, Illinois-based artist residency nonprofit the Ragdale Foundation.
As the designers explained:
“Our roots are the place we depart from and the ground we negotiate on. They are an enduring echo, ringing in and through us. The First Ragdale Ring, which has inspired so many echos since, was above all a proposition of nature. Howard Van Doren Shaw’s keen pursuit of landscaping created his garden into an enduring forum for the arts, itself the echo of the outdoor theatre at the Villa Ginanneschi-Gori. This typology is perhaps at its most primordial the echo of a meadow. We propose to explore the layering of these echos and their underlying sensibilities.”
Now in its tenth year the annual Ragdale Ring competition seeks singular designs for an ephemeral al fresco performance venue to be fully realized at Ragdale’s idyllic seven-acre campus and artists’ community in the Chicago suburbs 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.
Other shortlisted finalist design concepts this competition cycle included proposals from Hume Architecture, Riff Studio LLC, Philip Poon, Lu Zhao, and a playful vision involving swings (!) from Could Be Architecture.
More on Echo can be found in this profile of the winning design and the team behind it published by Syracuse University News.