The Shack: An Evolution in Scaffolding and Dance Music

Every year at Brainchild, a different group of artists or architects come together and entirely re-design our dance music stage, The Shack. Since 2013 when this was a DIY scaffolding tower covered in illustrations, we’ve seen it take all different shapes & sizes at the hands and minds of so many great people: it has become a beacon of creativity for the festival, where it’s always about creating something new no matter how much we loved its last form.

This year engineer Richard Boyd teamed-up with architects Ivo Tedbury and Oscar Walheim to put their skills to the test and create some new Brainchild traditions along the way.

Conceptual render of mesh structure


Where did you all meet and how did you start to work together?
Ivo and Richard met while working at an engineering consultant. Ivo was looking for an engineer to help develop a new type of treehouse and thought that Richard was right for the job!

Oscar and Ivo met at the Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL, where they’ve both recently finished their Master’s. They were both part of ‘Unit 19’ – a design studio which looks at applying the philosophy of mereology (the abstract study of the relations between parts and wholes) to architecture. In particular, they developed new forms of housing production which make use of digital design and robotic construction.

Richard and Ivo had done a few successful small projects together before, so the next logical step was to get together as a three.

What do you enjoy about working with one another?
We each bring something unique to the team and come at each challenge from a different angle. Just by talking problems through between us, we collectively build a very holistic understanding of the project. Ivo and Oscar’s architectural background combines hands-on workshop experience with digital design skills that help to refine as well as communicate the project. As an engineer, Richard brings intellectual rigour and a professional grounding. He asks all the sensible questions!

The Shack Stage, 2016


What have been your main inspirations for the Shack design?
We took a lot of inspiration initially from Anthony Gormley’s Second Body, particularly the intricate three-dimensional layers of grid. We also loved the work of the Italian artist Edoardo Tresoldi, who recently built an entire cathedral on an archaeological site from wire mesh.

The word ‘shack’ suggests a roughly built hut or cabin – something humble in form, with humble intentions. For our take on the theme, we wanted to take something usually heroic and magnificent and turn it on its head: a completely unhumble form but retain the humble functions of a shack.

The ‘blank canvas’ nature of the essentially transparent material will hopefully mean that everyone can interpret the structure in their own individual and constantly changing way as they move around it.

Oscar’s Masters project


The Shack has been a key feature of Brainchild, since the festival’s first year. Why did you want to build and design the Shack?
We felt that the requirements that come from creating a stage in such a sensitive and atmospheric site are a real architectural challenge. Also, the small scale and fairly short lifespan are a great opportunity to test something new.

It’s also exciting to be part of something that has been created from nothing by a group of people who are genuinely passionate about what they’re doing.

The 2016 Shack team building the hot pink structure

Have you taken much inspiration from the Shack’s previous designs?
It is always a challenge to do a lot with a little, so it has been useful to look at previous fabrication techniques for tips and tricks for this kind of temporary structure. Oh, and we have decided to incorporate a bit of hot pink in the colour scheme (a reference to the last shack). It’s a nice counterpoint to the minimalism of the rest of the structure. Maybe it will spark a shack tradition!!

The Shack Stage, 2013


Tell us about the materials you’re using and why you chose them.
Our primary material is steel wire mesh which is an unusual choice for a single structural material. It would normally be used as a companion material for reinforcement or for quite industrial uses like fencing or protecting windows. Whilst this has had its challenges, the resulting lightness is hopefully going to be quite a surprise. Design and fabrication has been a bit like origami – cutting and folding what is a very flexible material in flat sheets into more solid 3D forms.

See last year’s Shack designers Louise Colgan, Roma Swords McDonnell and Abigail Portus discuss the ideas and inspirations behind their design. Film made by Teddy Hunter.

Find out more about the line-up for The Shack this year.