Flour Power pix
BOORA Architects showed the Portland arts community why nothing's cooler or more convenient than a knock-down theater
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 6/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art takes its performances seriously. When organizers of its annual Time-Based Art festival learned that a participating troupe was planning to dance on a stage covered in baking flour, they took an unusual step—commissioning a special temporary theater from BOORA Architects, even though the theater would be used for only 10 days.
BOORA is known for cultural spaces such as the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in Davis, California, and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. But when PICA approached them about the Machineworks Theatre, principal Michael Tingley saw it as a chance to flex a different kind of creative muscle—and help out friends. "We've always been supportive of PICA," he says, adding that PICA had also shared an office with his firm in the past.
BOORA took the project pro bono, conceiving a 7,000-square-foot performance area inside a former machine shop. The festival's cabaret and café areas were also in the 25,000-square-foot space. To separate the theater from these, Tingley designed an 18-foot-high wall from rented scaffolding; he clad its stage-facing side with pegboard and sheathed the outer vertical plane in a translucent polyethylene sheeting. Space in between, among the scaffolding's posts, was large enough to accommodate the media booth.
The wall gave the theater a back corner portion of the building—essentially a box. And to contain its activity, Tingley hung black fabric on three sides, which form remaining "walls." Tingley illuminated the shrouded side of the wall by hanging fluorescent tubes from the scaffolding's trusses.
The impression for theatergoers was of a glowing square within the building. On the other side lay a real surprise: bleachers made from medium-density fiberboard panels and 250 orange 5-gallon plastic buckets forming seats atop portable risers. To pad them, architects borrowed 20-inch-square carpet samples from Interface. The Portland ballet loaned a stage. Volunteers helped with construction. But not everything was on loan. Tingley bought the buckets, each emblazoned with The Home Depot logo. He turned them around for use at the festival. Then he returned them for a full refund.