Finalist 2023

Pitch Music and Arts Festival - Main Stage

Ambrose Zacharakis / Henry Howson / Untitled Group

Pitch Music and Arts Festival 2022 Main Stage, situated at the foothills of the Grampians National Park.

Pitch Music and Arts Main Stage, a festival located at the foothills of the Grampians National Park, home to the traditional custodians of the Djab Wurrung and Eastern Maar Peoples.

Hosting headline performers, and the backdrop to the Welcome to Country Ceremony, the stage is the centrepiece of the festival.

The stage design is an arch that appears to be subtracted from a rectilinear form, the central opening focuses the audience on both the performer and the landscape beyond, creating a unique experience. The contrast of solid and void, set against the unfettered nature gives the stage a striking presence.

Design Brief:

As young graduate Architects working outside office hours, we were very fortunate that Untitled Group granted us the opportunity to design such a significant stage. Many of the festival's past designs were produced by international designers, it was through the successful execution of smaller projects that Untitled Group entrusted us with the design.

The brief was flexible with only two key requests: to reference brutalist architecture as part of the festival's brand identity, and that the final design be a bespoke solution with a high level of resolution. Whilst a pragmatic response is required to provide a safe platform for performers, staff, and guests, Untitled Group saw the design of this stage as an opportunity to innovate.

A key challenge was the site's remote nature and the tight program, preplanning and advanced fabrication methods were crucial as the severe climactic conditions and exposed nature presented further challenges to on-site construction.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

Set within the Grampians National Park, the festival site is vast and beautiful, with large native trees, dense bushland, and the ancient and magnificent mountains as a backdrop - the site is truly unique, all-encompassing, both serene and harsh. The beauty of the site's natural surroundings is breathtaking, and the design for the stage needed to respect and highlight this unique Australian landscape.

A key initial decision was made to split the stage into two separate wings and create a large opening directly through the centre, allowing patrons to see both their favourite artists and the magnificent landscape beyond. While this approach presented multiple technical challenges from a production point of view, this large aperture was seen as crucial to the success of the stage.

Many designs were produced and tested to see how a large opening could be developed into an overall concept. Ultimately the design evolved into a tapered arch form that appeared to be subtracted from a much larger rectilinear form, creating a curved negative space that housed the performer and allowed for a clear view through, while the larger solid form concealed the production equipment.

The complex curved form was rationalised by overlaying a perspective grid to generate a coffered ceiling, the ceiling was broken into multiple trapezoidal forms to create the subtracted arched silhouette. The resulting ceiling lines converged, creating a forced perspective and further focusing the audience's attention on the performer. The overall arch size, grid layouts, and facade spacing was adjusted to suit the size of standard materials, reducing costs and material waste. A concrete effect paint was selected as it adhered to the brutalist brand identity and could be easily applied to individual arch ceiling panels on the ground before installation.

Design Excellence

The Pitch Music and Arts 2022 Main Stage sets a new standard in the design of temporary structures and stages.

Through an explorative analysis of the brief and the site, rigorous development of the concept, and working collaboratively with the contractor throughout the design process, we produced a design that was unique, well-resolved, buildable, and sustainable.

The unique and complex form of the stage presents a clear and well-defined concept to the audience with a high level of finish. Unwanted or undesirable elements required to operate a stage of this size such as, artist areas, back-of-house services, and production equipment have been strategically concealed within the stage wings and as such do distract from the overall design. The structure and audio requirements have been neatly incorporated into the design and rigging and fixing points were concealed behind the stage facade and ceiling, reducing the amount of visible structural elements such as the truss beams and scaffolding. As a result, the design appears more like a permanent building rather than a traditional temporary stage. The overall effect of this planning and resolution is that the resulting design can be understood easily with minimal visual distractions, thus allowing the performer and stage to be fully appreciated by the audience.

The success of the finished stage is a direct result of the collaborative relationship with the builder. Given the complex geometry involved, key components were developed digitally, physically prototyped, and fabricated off-site ahead of construction starting on site. The design was continuously updated throughout the design process to suit the needs of the overall budget, engineer, contractor, suppliers, and fabricators; however, the initial concept was maintained as each additional requirement was tested against the model and a solution was developed.

Design Innovation

The design for many temporary structures is often undertaken outside of architecture with limited design consideration. Traditionally the approach is to decorate rather than to develop a three-dimensional concept that deals with architectural ideas such as quality of space, sustainability, and context. Often additional elements such as lighting are required to create visual interest rather than the design of the structure itself.

The design for this stage challenges this notion, presenting a clear and captivating architectural concept at scale. Rather than implement energy-intensive digital screens and lighting, the large opening and focus on the natural surroundings presents an artist backdrop that changes and develops depending on the time of day and weather. While lighting is required at night, the complex geometry of the stage can be used as a base to light architecturally, allowing the lighting designers to highlight various elements of the stage, such as the coffered ceiling panels.

Many pieces of the stage were fabricated off-site and ahead of time using advanced construction methods, thereby reducing costs, material waste, and time. A key example is the coffered ceiling, the complex curves of the arched form would have taken weeks on site to set out and fabricate, however through advanced planning and digital modelling, laser cut files were produced and the hundreds of individual arch pieces were cut in a matter of days. Laser cutting provided a greater level of accuracy, a higher quality finish, and less material waste as more pieces could be cut out of each sheet of plywood.

The success of this stage demonstrates how implementing advanced construction systems such as laser cutting and designing with minimal waste, complex and intricate designs can be achieved with limited resources and time available on site.

Design Impact

The design for the Pitch Music and Arts 2022 Main Stage has brought architectural ideas to a largely young audience of over 15,000 people. Audience members may not have had architecture presented to them in a form that they can engage with, especially at such a direct and personal level. The stage has been shared and seen thousands of times by audience members filming and sharing their experiences online. The overwhelmingly positive feedback both verbally and online demonstrates the power of showcasing clear architectural concepts at scale. The design for the stage is featured in Untitled Group’s promotional material and has been influential in attracting international artists for future events.

Not only was the stage showcased, but the stage showcased the natural setting - the contrast enhanced the beauty of both - unique design in a unique setting. Pitch Music Festival may have been a short-term event, but the design of the stage has had a lasting impact and has further developed the festival's brand identity. The Pitch Music and Arts Festival Main Stage demonstrates how stage design can enhance the sensory experience of live music and help to reinforce lasting memories of a temporary event.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

Circular design is central to our design philosophy. Large amounts of waste are generated through poorly designed temporary structures with materials usually having only a single use, often for as little as a few days. Given resources are so limited, the design process needs to be rethought. Key to our approach is to design with modular and reusable systems such as scaffolding and truss. Additional decorative elements are required, however, where possible we use sustainable materials, work to standard sizes, and design elements that can be wholly or partially reused. The overall effect of this approach is that it reduces the carbon footprint, creates greater project budgets when spread over multiple events, and allows for a higher standard of construction.

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