coachella art installations create a vibrant 'pop-up city' for festival-goers

coachella art installations create a vibrant 'pop-up city' for festival-goers

architect francis kéré and design studio ​NEWSUBSTANCE are among the creative talents who have created installations as part of coachella, the annual music and arts festival in indio, california. other multidisciplinary artists include new and returning multidisciplinary artists featured include artist and fashion designer sofia enriquez​​, creative studio ​poetic kinetics​, architecture studio​ office kovacs​​, artist ​peggy noland​, and artist duo ​dedo vabo​.

‘H.i.P.O. – hazardus interstellar perfessional operations’ by dedo vabo
image by lance gerber, courtesy of coachella (also main image)



for two weekends in april 2019 — 12–14 and 19–21 — the empire polo club welcomes the coachella valley music and arts festival. as part of the event, an international program of artist installations creates a ‘pop-up city’ of landmarks that helps attendees navigate the festival. dedo vabo, a studio that ‘confuses, confounds and captivates’, returns to coachella, determined to launch a rocket titled ‘​H.i.P.O. – hazardus interstellar perfessional’. standing seventy-five feet tall, the rocket sits atop an advanced laboratory and mission control center filled with animatronics and interactive special effects.

‘spectra’ by NEWSUBSTANCE
image by lance gerber, courtesy of coachella



NEWSUBSTANCE’s seven-story spectrum of color that went viral at last year’s event returns, embodying the festival’s sunrise and sunset. the immersive installation — which will remain in place for at least the next three years as the first resident art piece at the festival, allows concertgoers to ascend its inner spiral to a 360-degree observation deck offering breathtaking views of the awe-inspiring desert.

‘spectra’ by NEWSUBSTANCE



‘it was the color shift element that originally drew coachella’s organizers,’ says creative director patrick o’mahony. ‘the title SPECTRA refers to how people move through the color spectrum on each floor; they walk around and see the whole site and the viewing deck at the top shift through different perspectives. it takes down the sound of the festival a few notches and provides a space for reflection.’

‘colossal cacti’ by office kovacs
image by lance gerber, courtesy of coachella



los angeles-based creative studio office kovacs’ ‘​colossal cacti’ ​consists of seven brightly colored cacti, the four largest of which range between 36 and 52 feet high, while the smaller three stand less than 24 feet tall. the grouping sprawls like a skyline, casting long shadows and creating a fun, attractive, and shaded gathering space. the platforms on which the cacti stand each have large steps lined with paint that reference frank stella’s ‘multicolored squares.’

‘overview effect’ by poetic kinetics
image by lance gerber, courtesy of coachella



poetic kinetics’s larger-than-life astronaut — previously featured in 2014 — returns from a long adventure, looking beaten up and scarred and ready to share the evidence of its travels. ‘all over its body there is evidence, or clues, of the fantastical story of where it went,’ says patrick shearn, founder of poetic kinetics. while the astronaut — about 70 feet tall standing straight up and 45 feet tall in its usual crouched position — exudes different colors and aesthetic patterns than it did five years ago, but it functions in a similar fashion, navigating and hovering over concertgoers and projecting their faces and names on its helmet visor and space suit name tag, respectively. animatronics allow the astronaut to articulate lifelike gestures.

‘mismo’ by sofia enriquez
image by lance gerber, courtesy of coachella



locally-based artist and fashion designer sofia enriquez goes three-dimensional with a garden of six massive paisleys — one of the motifs in the graphic vocabulary she uses on her canvases and murals, as well as her line of upcycled clothing that she sells under the label MUCHO.​ ‘everybody wears paisleys: guys, girls, young people and old people, and people of different cultures,’ says sofia enriquez.

‘mismo’ by sofia enriquez
image by lance gerber, courtesy of coachella



‘it can be found on a cotton bandana worn by someone doing manual labor to someone wearing a business suit with a silk tie,’ enriquez continues. ‘it’s a symbol that makes the equality in people stand out,’ which is a theme that runs through all of the artist’s work. the paisleys, which are constructed with wood and range in height from 14 to 18 feet, read like double-sided paintings and are painted in bright, bold colors to contrast with the desert’s muted and pastel tones.

‘foiled plan’ by peggy noland
image by lance gerber, courtesy of coachella



returning to the coachella art program for her third year, peggy noland has once again enveloped the sonora stage in a signature multimedia artwork. for the work’s execution, noland assembled a team of predominantly los angeles-based friends and colleagues to lend their technical expertise and able hands. ‘foiled plan’ sees noland and her team integrating large-scale painting, custom furniture, and enormous cactus sculptures into a unique visual experience that illustrates the artist’s on-going interest in themes of reflection.

‘foiled plan’ by peggy noland
image by lance gerber, courtesy of coachella



the holographic material that covers the stage is a new tool in noland’s wheelhouse and its star role in the work exhibits her fresh experimentation with the material’s malleable physicality and color properties. noting that every inch of the stage has been carefully hand treated, noland hopes that festival goers and performers alike will internalize the immense amounts of love poured into the fabrication of this gem-like habitat.

francis kere coachella
‘sarbalé ke’ by francis kéré
image by lance gerber, courtesy of coachella



francis kéré’s installation comprises 12 colorful towers that reference the baobab trees of his native west african village of gando, burkina faso. ‘in my culture, the baobab is the most important tree,’ explains kéré. ‘it’s giant, and it has multiple uses as food and medicine. it’s the place where you get together, celebrate, and discuss. it also attracts animals. it is spiritual. naturally you will walk toward it.’ read more about the project on designboom here.

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