I was lucky enough to be able to get a personal tour with Phil Blaine, the art director for Coachella. It was hot (at least 100) and I did get a sunburn, but it was worth it.
To be honest, when I've come to Coachella in the past, I've pretty much skipped over the fact that it's supposed to be an music and art festival. The music is what really pulls in the crowds. As an 'artworld' kind of person, I often forget to stop to consider things outside my world.
When individually encountered (and without the spectacle of the crowds) the structures are truly impressive. As discussed with Blaine, the art featured at the festival is to please the crowds at Coachella. It has to fulfill a number of requirements. It needs to be large-scale, safe, transportable or quickly constructed, relatable, and affordable which automatically rules out a lot of what is seen in the contemporary art world. It also has to offer something practical, whether it be shade, light, mist or interaction to the crowd. I kept having to remind myself that audience is really first and foremost in this kind of situation.
Beyond that, Blaine was really thoughtful about the kinds of projects that should be included. He contacted Sci-Arch to do a class which would focus on constructing an architectural piece (Elastic Plastic Sponge) with 15, 000 dollar budget and with as many of qualities listed above as possible. It had to transform a space, take up as much room as possible, with as little money per square foot as possible, and provide so shade and light at night.
The Flockwall was also designed and constructed in an academic setting. It was designed at CalPoly Pomona in the Architectural Robotics class by students and the instructor, Michael Fox.
As commented on in the LA Times, this festival was like a showroom for young architects. It was a giant space for architects and artists to test out quasi-functional spaces and new materials.
All images courtesy Ashley Halloran