The World Stage Design 2013 (WSD2013) brief for its design competition, held every four years, challenged the ingenuity and sustainability credentials of participants. “We asked for a venue that was eco-conscious, could seat up to 150 people, host a variety of events and be self-built, all for an outlay of less than £20,000,” said Ian Evans, technical director and senior lecturer at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) in Cardiff, Wales. Architect Tim Lai, Tim Lai ArchitecT, and Brad Steinmetz, Ohio State University professor of theater, both located in Columbus, Ohio, collaborated on the winning design, the Willow Theater. Its box-within-a-box architecture is softened and activated by layers of dangling horticultural fleece, a translucent, locally sourced and recyclable material.
“I’m always interested in spaces between forms and ways to make those spaces interesting,” said Steinmetz. “[The translucent fleece panels] define and yet blur spaces.” The building, erected on the grounds of the RWCMD in the former stables of Cardiff Castle during the September WSD2013 festival, welcomed guests for a series of talks, workshops and shows exploring environmental sustainability and the arts. The Willow Theater is built on hired and returnable industrial scaffolding; and its floor and wooden seats are reusable, recyclable or reclaimed materials. The horticultural fleece “fronds,” sourced in the U.K., are inexpensive and can easily be recycled into new fleece. The theater’s retractable roof could be opened during fair weather, and the moving fleece arms intrigue when lit from inside at night. Local and international volunteers constructed the Willow Theater in one week. For more details, visit the Willow Theater webpage.