TEDxTownsville Stage Design: Behind the Scenes

TEDxTownsville Stage Design: Behind the Scenes

By Kathleen Varghese

As TEDxTownsville 2016 comes to a close, we asked architectural graduate and volunteer Jonathan Chamberlain to tell us about what went into the making of the stage this year.

What was your inspiration for the TEDxTownsville stage design?

It began whilst seeking to understand the theme of the event, Breaking Barriers. I started to sketch what barriers meant to me — my imagery seemed to focus around capturing the character and texture of stretcher bond wall patterns, aka brick walls. Taking this further and seeking to break them down gave itself to these textures being blown apart, as if an old brick wall was being demolished.

Walk us through your stage design process. How did you bring this to life?

As I sought various methods to materialise this imagery into something that would stand out on a stage and bring contrast and texture, string seemed to be an effective medium. I began to get excited about the possibilities that string could achieve, and explored different ways to use it. My original stretcher bond patterns evolved into creating the word ‘Townsville’ out of string.


From here, I modelled the stage in 3D and studied the relevant proportions, audience sightlines, camera angles, and entrance patterns in order to articulate the constraints of the venue. This enabled me to decide what areas of the stage needed populating as well as how much volume of space should be filled. I designed the words ‘TEDx’ and ‘Townsville’ to fit these requirements, with the intention that they would be seen at a suitable scale from the audience.


Tell us more about the materials used.

‘TEDx’ is made from two layers of S/L grade polystyrene, cut with a hotwire and painted with a gloss red. For ‘Townsville’, the main ingredient is natural cotton twine that we purchased in 300m roles. For the boxes, we wanted to use as much recycled timber as we could. The ply that makes up the sides of the box has been upcycled from pre-loved timber, while the frames were made from 35x70mm timber studs, and the front of the box is made from 12mm marine grade plywood. We used 65mm nails at 30-60mm spacing on the circumference of the box as well as the outline of each letter. The boxes were painted with a single coat of low sheen black paint.


How much string went into this?

We used approximately 200m of string on the ‘T’ alone. Over all the eight boxes we estimate we used about 1 km of cotton twine!


Where did you get these materials from?

The recycled timber was sourced by a TEDxTownsville executive team volunteer enjoying a late afternoon dumpster dive in a local industrial bin. The rest of the materials were purchased at the hardware store.


Sounds like a lot of work! How many hours and manpower did this take?

The total time that has gone into the construction of the stage is estimated at 120 hours, just for the ‘Townsville’ component. In terms of design, I estimate approximately 45 hours.

What made you want to volunteer for TEDxTownsville?

I was excited by the challenge of designing something that I had never designed before. I also enjoyed the prospect of working as part of a team towards something that would help to make this world a better place.