Standing tall against the surprisingly brutal Indio, Calif., wind during the second weekend of the annual music and arts festival, "The Tower of Twelve Stories," by designer Jimenez Lai, founder of Los Angeles–based firm Bureau Spectacular, sticks out against the natural desert landscape with its clean lines and larger-than-life geometries. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival organizers, Goldenvoice, commissioned the massive white section model, which was inspired by Lai's collection of graphic drawings from 2011, "Cartoonish Metropolis."
"I've always been interested in cartoons and architecture, and in the intersection between the two," Lai says. "Cartoons are the medium, and architecture is the subject matter. But, being an architect, I would really like to find a way to reverse that."
Fascinated by the prevalence of curves in cartoon drawings, Lai conceived a structure nearly absent of 90-degree angles. Numerous stacked forms make up the 52-foot-tall structure, which is supported by a forest of slanted columns. Because this is a temporary installation, Lai and his team were not allowed to pour concrete on site. Instead, they built a steel frame beneath the sculpture's platform base that anchors to the ground in 40 spots.
"We were trying to make a sloppy pile of cartoon bubbles," he says. Intentionally, of course: Lai used contrapposto, or counterpose, to create a visually stimulating composition.
The product of two months of design development and four months of construction, "The Tower of Twelve Stories" becomes especially dynamic once the sun sets. LED strip lights embedded in the shapes are programmed to flicker while 12 light sources, customized to accentuate the unique curves of each block, are projected via an analog projection mapping system from a hub 100 feet away, resulting in a stunning light show.
For festival-goers, the installation also serves as a shelter from the sun, with many sitting within its shade or around the columns' bases. Lai doesn't know where the installation will go next, but one thing is for sure: it's a welcomed addition to the sweltering Coachella landscape this year.