20 Apr Architecture + Music

Students from Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design and the School of Performing Arts joined forces recently for a day of music and architecture on the Drillfield. Crowds gathered on the Drillfield throughout the day to watch a series of performances that were part of Unlikely Ensembles: Design-Build Experiments in Architecture & Music, a collaboration between the School of Architecture + Design and the School of Performing Arts.

Nicole Paglialonga  Instructor for Survey of Music and Director of String Project explained, “The structures were designed to allow people interact with space in a new way. We wanted the musicians to interact with their audiences in a neutral way, with less division between performers and audience members.” Paglialonga met Kevin Jones, a visiting assistant professor in architecture, through new faculty orientation, and the two decided to collaborate. “We wanted to design a project around music education spaces, so Kevin brought his third-year class over. They looked at our facilities. In their course, they’re designing an ideal space for music education. This Drillfield experiment was meant to be a fun breakaway project, all done this week. It was our grand experiment; we wanted to see what could happen.”

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Holy procession in front of "CASA"
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The architecture students created three distinct types of spaces for the performers.

One space created for smaller groups such as quartets was called R2 (Ribbon Squared). Third-Year Architecture Student Tyler Peterson explained the concept, “Our inspiration was continuous ribbons, designed for smaller ensembles, such as quartets. We had the idea of continuity, bringing the audience and players together, breaking down the separation. The platform has undulations to create a disorganized rhythm that can change the performances. The time of day, for example, changes each performance. The arc of the sun through the day can affect where musicians are going to play. The undulating levels change interactions with space.”

“Trees” was the space created for larger ensembles of up to 20 musicians, including wind, percussion, and string instruments. Third-Year Architecture Student Lindsey Blum said, “Our concept was forest in a field. We created a shading device. We laser-cut sheets of wood to recreate the light play that happens when you’re walking under trees.”

The smallest space, “Pickup Sticks” created a more intimate-feeling space for performers. Breanna LaTondre, a third-year architecture student said, “In Pickup Sticks, we placed wooden slats at different angles so the musicians could feel sheltered. (The clarinetist did say she felt safe there.) We wanted to allow outdoor performances that attracted audiences. We wanted to find a way to create an actual audience. As they walked by, for example, they could glance through the walls.”