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Competition: Ragdale Ring pop-up theatre, Illinois

An open contest has been launched to design a $15,000 temporary theatre at the Ragdale artists retreat in Illinois, USA (Deadline: 9 March)

Open to architects, designers and artists, the competition seeks ‘contemporary, fanciful and functional’ proposals for a new performance and gathering space at the rural arts community 50km north of Chicago.

The Ragdale Ring project, backed by the Ragdale Foundation, aims to deliver a contemporary reimagining of a 1912 theatre created by the estate’s founder, architect Howard Van Doren Shaw. The winning team will be invited to construct their scheme on the site by 12 June.

2016 Ragdale Ring by Sports

2016 Ragdale Ring by Sports

2016 Ragdale Ring by Sports

According to the brief: ‘Ragdale seeks proposals for a full-scale project and installation that consider contemporary, fanciful and functional interpretations of the original Ragdale Ring, designed by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw in 1912 as a garden theatre.

‘We are seeking inventive, site-responsive, large-scale submissions that explore intersections of architecture, sculpture, landscape, public art, and performance disciplines. Proposals that consider contemporary, fanciful, and functional interpretations of the original Ragdale Ring, designed by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw in 1912 as an outdoor garden theatre, are encouraged.’

Ragdale is the former summer home of Van Doren Shaw, a leading member of the American Craftsman movement who completed a variety of major buildings in the Chicago area including the 1900 remodelling of the Second Presbyterian Church.

The large country house and 20ha estate were transformed into an artist’s community by Shaw’s granddaughter, Alice Judson Hayes in 1976. Today the complex hosts more than 150 residencies every year with up to 13 artists of varied disciplines working at Ragdale at any time.

1912 Ragdale Ring by Howard Van Doren Shaw

1912 Ragdale Ring by Howard Van Doren Shaw

1912 Ragdale Ring by Howard Van Doren Shaw

The original Ragdale Ring was created as a temporary outdoor theatre stage by Shaw for his wife Frances who produced plays for audiences of up to 300. The annual competition, held since 2013, aims to recreate the structure with a contemporary twist.

Proposals for the commission should include a temporary outdoor theatre space capable of seating up to 300 people with a 6x6m stage and cover from the rain and sunlight. Proposals which address the reuse, recycling, and dispersal of all material used in the project are encouraged.

The overall winner, due to be announced on 23 March, will receive a $15,000 production grant and will be offered studio space, rooms and board for up to 10 people for three weeks during construction.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for submissions is 9 March

Fee

$40

Contact details

The Ragdale Foundation
1260 N. Green Bay Road
Lake Forest
IL 60045

Email: info@ragdale.org
Tel: +(01) 847.234.1063

Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Jeffrey Meeuwsen

The executive director at the Ragdale Foundation discusses his ambitions for the competition

Jeffrey meeuwsen

Jeffrey meeuwsen

Why are you holding a contest for a new temporary theatre at Ragdale?

The Ragdale Ring design competition balances the history of Ragdale and our contemporary mission. The original Ragdale Ring was designed by acclaimed architect Howard Van Doren Shaw in 1912 as a summer theatre for the work of his wife Francis, a playwright. Today Ragdale is an artists’ retreat centre annually hosting nearly 200 creative practitioners from around the world. We support artists and designers as they take leaps in the creation of new work. Unlike the 1912 Ragdale Ring, the projects are now temporary installations, giving designers the freedom to experiment with ephemeral materials, inventive structures, and a variety of locations. The open-ended, international nature of the competition encourages inclusive dialogue about what architecture, theatre, sculpture, and public spaces can be.

2017 Ragdale Ring by T+E+A+M

2017 Ragdale Ring by T+E+A+M

2017 Ragdale Ring by T+E+A+M

What is your vision for the new performance space?

Designers work site responsively and may choose any location on Ragdale’s 5-acre [2ha] campus—as long as it can accommodate an audience of at least 200 people. Projects may use almost any material imaginable, though the installation must remain safe and accommodating for six months in a variety of weather conditions. Projects tend to score well when they present distinctive solutions (unlike previous Ragdale Rings), show evidence of the team’s ability to successfully realise the installation, and consider adaptive reuse.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The completion and design-build residency at Ragdale are open to anyone who can assemble a 10-person team with the talent and experience to complete the installation. It is particularly exciting to receive proposals from designers with exploratory ideas – those that are rarely built. For several of our past winners, the Ragdale Ring was their first large-scale built project and a pivotal force in propelling their careers. The 2016 and 2017 Ragdale Rings both received national top honours as ‘Best of Design Awards for Temporary Installation’ by the Architect’s Newspaper.

2015 Ragdale Ring by Design with Company

2015 Ragdale Ring by Design with Company

2015 Ragdale Ring by Design with Company

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

We recently held an invitational competition to design a new dance studio, the Sybil Shearer Studio, on the Ragdale campus. The winning firm was Woodhouse Tinucci Architects.

Are there any other similar temporary theatre projects you have been impressed by?

I’m troubled by the widening gap between resource and opportunity for creative practitioners, so I am a fan of any programme that provides artists and designers with the time, space, financial and promotional support that they need to develop and share inventive new work. When projects like the Ragdale Ring are delivered with thoughtfulness, care, and sincere appreciation, everyone wins: artist, patron, and audience. Of course I’m biased, but it has been thrilling to see our past winners go on to groundbreaking new projects and recognition.

2016 Ragdale Ring by Sports

2016 Ragdale Ring by Sports

2016 Ragdale Ring by Sports