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Ragdale Ring Project


The Ragdale Ring Project 2014

For the second year Ragdale invited architects and designers to submit proposals for the design, construction and installation of the Ragdale Ring, a temporary structure intended to house a mix of summer performances, events and their audiences.   Proposals were submitted by the February 21, 2014 deadline, ranging from traditional to fanciful interpretations of the original Ragdale Ring designed by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw in 1912 as an outdoor garden theatre. A jury of architects, artists and landscape architects evaluated the proposals and selected one project to be realized at full scale on the Ragdale grounds in spring, 2014.

Winning Proposal by Michael Loverich and Antonio Torres Torres, The Bittertang Farm

The winning design was created by architects Michael Loverich and Antonio Torres Torres of The Bittertang Farm, an international, design and architecture firm based in New York City and Guadalajara that uses unusual building materials, such as inflatables, ice, beeswax, and organic materials, to bring delight and active engagement into the architectural world.

Their concept for the Ragdale Ring is to create a “living” amphitheater that merges performance, spectators, landscape, architecture and sculpture into a dramatic composition.  The Ring seems to emerge out of the ground, soaring 20’ overhead into a “mound” which cascades into tentacles extending into the viewing area. The structure is made primarily of netted straw, or “wattles,” that are embedded with wildflowers and vines that will grow and transform its surface throughout the summer. At dusk, an array of LED lights that dangle from above will produce an artificial night sky above the performers. Partially living, all organic and biodegradable, the Ring will function as a growing medium, sitting surface and canopy for performances throughout the summer/fall.


 Site Plan - Aerial View


 Ragdale Ring - Interior View


 Ragdale Ring - Exterior View



The Design Team

Michael Loverich, cofounder of Bittertang, lives in Manhattan but grew up in the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest. He graduated from UCLA with a Masters in Architecture before moving to New York to work for Reiser + Umemoto followed by Snohetta. Michael has taught at UCLA and UPenn, and has won and built a handful of architectural competitions.

Antonio Torres is a Mexican-American architect and artist who cofounded The Bittertang Farm as a place to experiment with the physics, biology, behaviors and emotions of our surroundings. Last year, he presented these explorations at the TED Fellows conference in Long Beach. He holds a Masters in Architecture from UCLA and has taught design and technology studios at the Western Institute of Higher education in Guadalajara and at the Monterrey Institute of Technology Campus Guadalajara.


The Bittertang Farm

Excited by the possibilities of a future full of playful and inventive opportunities, Bittertang was founded by Antonio Torres and Michael Loverich as a small design farm to bring humor and pleasure to the built environment. Their work uses fables and narrative to build new worlds that explore frothiness, biological matter, animal posturing, and babies all unified together through bel composto. As creators of physical things, Bittertang relies on the dialogue between visceral and digital matter to generate and invigorate their work. Although trained as architects, their prolific interests and methodology associates them closely to the organization of a farm. Bittertang material is bred, coaxed and grown to yield tasty morsels, new exotic beasts and fertilizer for future growth. Recently they have built three inflatable pavilions, a pregnant sugar oozing pinata, a plush toy collection, a sagging birdcage, a room of wax and an edible environment.


The Jury

Zurich Esposito, AIA Chicago

Frank Flury, Illinois Institute of Technology

Stephen Dietrich Lee, Architect of the 2013 Ragdale Ring

Walker Johnson, Johnson-Lasky Architects

Judith McBrien, The Archimedia Workshop

Ann Merritt, Landscape Architect

Phillip Rosborough, Rosborough Partners, Inc.

David Woodhouse, David Woodhouse Architects

Jeffrey Meeuwsen and Regin Igloria, Ragdale Project Directors.


About - The Ragdale Ring Project

Ragdale, the nationally acclaimed artist residency program in Lake Forest, Illinois invites architects, artists and designers to apply for the opportunity to design, build, and exhibit a temporary theatre to house summer concerts, performances, and event. The Ragdale Ring is an inventive, site-responsive, large-scale project that explores intersections of architecture, sculpture, landscape, public art and performance disciplines. Proposals that consider contemporary, fanciful and functional interpretations of the original Ragdale Ring are encouraged (see Shaw’s design below).

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About the 1912 Ragdale Ring

Howard Van Doren Shaw designed the original Ragdale Ring as an outdoor theatre to accommodate the plays of his wife, Frances.  Audiences of over 200 to 300 guests sat on Shaw-designed benches in a circular orchestra paved with grass and surrounded by a low limestone wall.  The raised stage featured wings formed by evergreens and columns topped with baskets of stone fruit. During performances, banners and Japanese lanterns were displayed around the theater. Shaw also crafted a sophisticated lighting system with tiers of floodlights and spotlights as well as many of the theatre’s props and costumes.


Pipes of Pan performance



Shaw Drawing