Using 65 car hoods, a slew of computer circuit boards, 60 hollowed-out French doors, and 3,000 plastic water bottles, as well as reclaimed I-beams, streetlight lenses, lumber, steel, and plywood, a team of two arts collectives and one landscape architect has merged art, architecture, and what most people consider junk into a community gathering place. The resulting band shell, installed in San Francisco's Panhandle park a few weeks ago, was conceived as a method for demonstrating how discarded materials can be recycled and repurposed—with little alteration from their original forms—into something attractive and useful.
The San Francisco-based team of The Finch Mob Arts Collective and Rebar, along with CMG Landscape Architecture co-founder Christopher Guillard, also wanted to create a space that would engage the surrounding neighborhoods, foster a sense of community in people who were nearly strangers to each other, and help them view their everyday surroundings from a different perspective.
"Taking objects and recasting them in a different way makes you think completely differently about the things around you and what they could become, rather than going to the landfill," says the project's primary manager, Will Chase of The Finch Mob. "I think there's more creative potential with recycled and repurposed materials than with using new things."
One of the basic principles of the project was to create a structure that from afar would appear simply to be a beautiful piece of architecture or art but that, when experienced up close, would resolve into its disparate parts and prod the viewer to reconsider the materials. Source materials were not broken down but were left essentially as they were found. "We didn't mix them a lot," Guillard says. "It created a clear message. It makes the structure legible, rather than being a kind of collage, which is an easy thing to end up with when you're dealing with found or repurposed materials."
Each collective brought its distinct personality and artistic sensibility to the band shell's design, and Guillard provided a grounding influence, architectural expertise, and assistance in the approval process. "Chris really helped us translate our wacky ideas into a structure that would be safe and modular so we could assemble it in a warehouse, disassemble it [for transport], and then reassemble it on site," says Rebar co-founder John Bela.
Starting with a grant of $12,000 awarded by The Black Rock Arts Foundation (www.blackrockarts.org) for its ScrapEden SF program, the band shell's trio of creators added their own personal resources, accepted donations, and recruited volunteers for materials acquisition and construction; the total cost was upward of $28,000. The Panhandle Bandshell (www.panhandlebandshell.com) is open for the use of local performers, including acoustic musicians (no amplification is allowed due to the proximity of homes); the local public library branch even uses it for children's story hours.
The structure's ultimate fate is not yet settled. It could be moved to Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay for an indie music festival in September, or it could be installed temporarily in other parks around the city. Chase, Bela, and Guillard, however, would prefer to find a permanent home for their creation.