California-based artist Phillip K. Smith III's newest installation, "Portals," a circular, open-air pavilion, stands out like a refuge in the desert. The piece was commissioned by events organizer Goldenvoice, for this year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., and offers shelter from the sun with plenty of hooded seating areas and grass for visitors to take advantage of.
Smith is no stranger to the music festival scene. In 2014, he created an installation called "Reflection Field" for Coachella, which consisted of five large-scale rectangular volumes spread across 100 feet of festival grounds. The mirrored structures housed hidden LED luminaires, so that the 3D rectangles could reflect the desert landscape during the day, and emit bright neon lights at night.
Smith’s work mainly focuses on universal beauty, and questioning why people react so strongly to certain works of art. "Portals" is his way of exploring that concept through light and color. The 6-foot-diameter pavilion was assembled from 3-by-3-inch stainless steel columns that create an inner space separated, but not cut off from the festival happenings. Smith achieves this balance by giving the steel columns a mirrored facade on the exterior, which allows viewers to catch a glimpse of themselves and visitors inside of the pavilion as they pass by. “The mirrored surface uses the people and the environment as a boundary of change,” he says.
The structure houses eight LED light installations broken up by separate sitting areas. Each light installation has 6-foot-diameter 3D circles stacked atop one another, that shrink towards their center, and have an array of colorful LEDs that transition into different hues. All colors were intentionally chosen by the artist. “What I would like for people to experience—in the midst of all this craziness—is to be able to have a singular experience with color,” says Smith.
A single 35-foot-tall mesquite tree, planted at the center of the 85-foot-diameter structure brings softness to the hard surfaces that define the pavilion, creating a meditative space for festival-goers.
Correction: This story initially reported that "Portals" had been constructed before Coachella, however the structure was fully realized through commission from the festival organizer, Goldenvoice.