The School of Architecture & Environment (SAE) is celebrating the well-deserved honor awarded to DRAWINGS, an architectural practice co-directed by Daniel Garcia and William Smith, a BArch '13 alumnus and current Pro Tem Instructor with SAE. The duo were the winners of this year's Ragdale Ring Competition. The Ragdale Foundation is a nationally acclaimed non-profit artist residency program that hosts a unique, international design competition. The annual competition affords artists, architects, and designers the opportunity to devise a temporary, experimental performance venue and gathering place on the historic campus. Each winning submission for the competition delivers inventive, site-responsive, large-scale proposals that explore intersections of architecture, sculpture, landscape, public art, and performance disciplines, and the DRAWINGS submission is a superb reflection of the competition's values.
Garcia and Smith founded DRAWINGS in 2020 while pursuing their Master's in Architecture degrees at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. This bi-coastal partnership, split between Brooklyn, NY, and Portland, OR, was always intended to operate out of two very different contexts in order to leverage their unique advantages. The geographical, cultural, and spatial distinctions between these locales create the conditions for a dynamic dialogue around design. DRAWINGS embraces the inherent potential found in contrasting elements and ideas.
Garcia and Smith followed the Ragdale Ring competition for several years before deciding to submit a proposal. The 2023 brief, “Theater of the Intimate”, particularly resonated with them. When they heard the goal was to produce an intimate space for exchange between visiting artists similar to the salons of the 17th and 18th centuries, they thought that “this is the right year to submit”.
The Ragdale Foundation is located in Lake Forest, Illinois on the former 1912 estate of architect Howard Van Doren Shaw. A central feature of the estate is an outdoor garden theater originally designed by Shaw. In 2013, the Ragdale Foundation launched a competition to “reinterpret the Ragdale Ring”, inviting architects and artists to propose designs for a temporary performance pavilion that serves as a backdrop for summer concerts, performances, and events. 2023 marks the first time in the competition’s 10-year history that the pavilion will be situated on the original Ragdale ring site.
“We are returning to some of the central tenants of Howard Van Doren Shaw," explained Regin Igloria, the artistic director of the Ragdale Foundation, "and his vision of what an outdoor theater might be."
DRAWINGS’ winning competition entry for the Ragdale Ring adapts the formal, spatial, and social characteristics of a table surrounded by chairs. Influenced by artist Carrie Mae Weems’ Kitchen Table Series in which Weems presents the table and chairs as a setting for the performance of daily life, Garcia and Smith proposed a sculptural installation enabling multiple scales of interaction between each of the resident artists as well as formal performances for larger audiences.
The most notable feature of the design to be built by DRAWINGS is the abstracted and exaggerated proportion of each chair. The unusually tall backs confer a sense of theatricality and drama to visitors while simultaneously producing an intimate spatial condition that can be modified depending on the event or size of the audience.
What's next for the duo is to travel to Lake Forest, IL, for an 18-day residency during which they will build and document their design. Many of the duo’s speculative collaborations challenge normative material and typological trends in architecture, expand architecture’s influence in addressing cultural and environmental issues through physical form, and produce objects meant to engage and subtly provoke.
DRAWINGS co-founders Garcia and Smith hold Master's in Architecture Degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. They have taught studios and seminars at California College of the Arts and the University of Oregon. Smith is also a project lead with Waechter Architecture in Portland.
The Ragdale Foundation public programming will begin in the third week of June and continue into the fall.