Design With Company (Dw/Co), a Chicago-based firm whose entry was selected as the finalist for the Ragdale Ring Competition, has completed its temporary performance venue. The design, conceived by firm co-founders and couple Stewart Hicks and Allison Newmeyer, is an interactive wooden box residing on the grounds of the Ragdale Artist Colony in Lake Forest, Ill. When it is not being used as a performance venue, it serves as a storage space for movable, large-scale pillows in varying shapes and colors. When opened, the forward-facing flap of the box lays on the ground and serves as a stage toward the Ragdale Ring courtyard, which the pillows are sprawled out in for seating.
The international competition was launched three years ago to create a dedicated performance space for 13 artists-in-residence during the summer session. Designers and architects are encouraged to create a temporary but experimental venue for the visiting artists who can perform in Shaw’s Ring. Between May and June, the couple and nine of their friends lived at the colony over the course of four weeks building the project with the $15,000 they were awarded to fund the project.
The Ragdale estate was originally built in 1897 as a summer retreat for architect Howard Van Doren Shaw’s family of artists, which included cartoonists, poets, and sculptors. To appeal to his wife’s creative medium as a playwright, Shaw designed Ragdale Ring in 1912 as an outdoor theater made of a grass courtyard and a low-standing limestone wall as the stage.
Dw/Co referenced the original visionary’s works in Chicago by choosing shapes alluding to his historical buildings, such as the rooftops of Market Square in Lake Forest, and the Quadrangle Club at the University of Chicago.