Sustainable Manner

Trailer Gets Sleek and Sustainable Design

SCI-Arc student Dovid Feld has been helping us work out a new design for our 1951 Spartan Trailer.   The banquette area that wraps around the front windows will be the centerpiece for our indoor events:

Dovid's design envisions a modular banquette area for rehearsals and performances.

The area will be used for rehearsals, discussions, poetry and play readings, as well as art sessions with young people like our buddies the NOMADS. We took our inspiration from 1950′s-style diners. But we had to make sure that the seats would be light-weight so we could transform the space into a “stage” for concerts, puppet shows, etc.:

Vinly upholstery made with low VOCs and recycled content

Check out the upholstery material we are considering!   We are committed to building in a sustainable manner and take pride in doing considerable research before choosing materials.  This material is made from sturdy vinyl but it contains low VOC’s and uses 30% recycled content (20% post-consumer recycled polyester and 10% pre-consumer recycled vinyl).  We got the idea for using this particular brand from some of the students at SCI-Arc who working on a design for the Solar Decathlon, a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The front windows have always been a key feature of Spartan trailers; the designs are intended to be reminiscent of an airplane cockpit.  However, the windows are fixed.  To open them up requires cutting into the skin and frame – not an easy feat.  The Spartan’s aluminum frame (a monocoque design) accounts for 70% of the trailer’s strength.  Cutting into it involves risk and opens up the possibility of leaks.

The bay window area of our 1951 Spartan is a great design. But the windows are fixed; we want to open them out. The job represents a considerable engineering challenge.

We’ve found the right guy for the job – Eddie Paul from EP Industries.  Opening up the windows, will allow us to make art (puppet shows, shadow plays, dances) available to outdoor audiences.  A small portable stage over the trailer tongue will add further possibilities:

The windows will open and a portable stage will go over the trailer tongue.

How is this all going to work?  We’ll figure that out as we go along, with the help of playwright and puppeteer Leila Ghaznavi and friends.  Her “Silken Veils” will be used as a template for other shows:  the audience will be seated outside;  marionettes and shadow puppets will be stage inside with actors and musicians on the outside stage.

Leila Ghaznavi’s “Silken Veils” will be used as a model for other performances we can stage in and around the trailer.

We’ve got a ways to go before we finish the restoration.  But we have a great new design to keep us motivated.  (Thanks, Dovid!)

This post is part of a series documenting Sam Breen’a Spartan Restoration Project. Please see his first post here and check out the archive here. The CSPA is helping Sam by serving in an advisory role, offering modest support and featuring Sam’s Progress by syndicating his feed from as part of our CSPA Supports Program.

The Crane Also Rises: CalArts Connection to Coachella’s Ascension

Picking up a story about Executive Director Ian Garrett’s Practice outside of the CSPA from the CalArts Blog’s Christine Ziemba….

Anyone who attended the Coachella or Stagecoach festivals in recent weeks in Indio, Calif., couldn’t miss the giant origami crane towering over the festival grounds. The art installation, Ascension, was crafted by the Crimson Collective, an LA-based consortium of artists, architects and designers. Based on Japanese legend, Ascension stood as a symbol of peace and prosperity.

The Collective’s Nick Vida tapped artist and CalArts alumnus Ian Garrett(Theater MFA 08) to design the lighting for the project in an environmentally sustainable manner. In other words, the lights were programmed and run by solar power: “We had to collect enough light to charge the batteries and power the lights at night,” said Garrett. He used multicolored LED lights to change the crane’s colors continually each evening, providing concertgoers dramatic visuals to go along with the music from the festivals’ stages.

Standing at more than 45 feet and with a wingspan of more than 150 feet, the fabric and truss installation gave concertgoers shelter from the desert sun by day, too. Here’s a description from The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog:

Defined by the collective as a living art installation, the giant white crane was crafted from white fabric, modular aluminum and tension wire, all of which combine and provide vast expanses of shade. While simultaneously blocking the sun, two solar energy collectors will charge via the sun’s rays to provide colored ambient lighting once the sun goes down. Underneath each of the solar panels is a bench and rest area, offering extra space for respite.

Since the crane is a fully sustainable and reusable project, the Crimson Collective is planning to take the crane around the world. For those interested in learning more about the crane project, the Collective’s Nick Vida and Brent Heyning will be on campus next week (May 7 at noon) to discuss the crane project and installation as part of CalArts Sustainability Speaker Series.

Garrett was at Stagecoach this weekend to help take down Ascension. He provided us a few early renderings of the crane, as well as photos from the festival grounds in the photo gallery posted above.

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Kresge Foundation Folds Green Building Initiative into Env’t Program

The Kresge Foundation has announced that it will be folding its Green Building Initiative into its existing Environment Program.  Whether this was due to a downturn in funding, management consolidation, or a feeling that their efforts were being duplicated by other foundations is unknown.  However, funds will remain available for theaters seeking to rebuild or renovate their existing spaces according to the US Green Building Council’s LEED accreditation system.

Via Philathrophy News Digest, March 2, 2009:

The Kresge Foundation in Troy, Michigan, has announced that it is winding down its green building initiative and has set May 29 as the last day that it will accept applications to cover the planning costs associated with constructing or renovating facilities in an environmentally sustainable manner. At the same time, the foundation has committed to advancing environmental stewardship through its environment program. Launched in 2007, the program is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment, accelerate the adoption of renewable energy technologies, and develop strategies for helping society adapt to the impacts of climate change. Going forward, the foundation will allocate more resources to the program to support policy changes designed to accelerate the adoption of energy-efficient practices in building construction, renovation, and operation.

“The green building initiative has served its purpose just as Kresge intended,” said Lois DeBacker, Kresge senior program director and Environment Program team leader. “The nonprofit organizations that received green planning grants and went on to construct green buildings raised awareness in the nonprofit sector, in the design and construction professions, and in the physical communities where these projects are located.”


“Kresge Is Retiring Its Green Building Initiative in May 2009”: Kresge Foundation Press Release, 2/27/09

“Why Build Green?”: Kresge Foundation


Go to the Green Theater Initiative