Finding Harmony: the culture of music festivals

It’s that time of year again when you can’t use social media without seeing thousands of photos of people posing under the Californian sun enjoying all that the annual music festival ‘Coachella’ has to offer. While it is impossible to avoid hearing all about Beyoncé’s performance, I’ve found myself interested in the festival for another reason. I am intrigued by the way architecture and art have become part of the fabric of music festivals such as Coachella. I explored other music festivals around the world and found, particularly in North America and Europe, that festivals now are enthusiastically embracing art and architecture.The installations and stages provide a physical space and create an atmosphere for the festival’s primary purpose, the music.

The culture of music festivals has been evolving from a symbol of counterculture into popular mainstream entertainment, with many music festivals embracing the use of visual arts and architecture. This is usually in the form of “temporary structures and installations that provide visual stimuli, some shade, and often much-needed landmarks for locating lost friends. These temporary structures represent exciting examples of efficient and engaging design”. [1]

At this year’s Coachella festival there were two installations that caught my attention, as they create an interesting dialogue between architecture and music. The first is ‘Etherea’ by Edorardo Tresoldi. Tresoldi is known for his wire mesh sculptures that take the shape of classical architecture. “Titled ‘Etherea’, the site-specific installation represents the culmination of Tresoldi’s research in the music field, realised as three transparent structures taking inspiration from Neoclassical and Baroque architecture.” The Etherea sculpture represents the artist’s investigation into architecture as a tool for contemplation, a “dedicated space where the sky and clouds are narrated through the language of classical architecture.” [2] 

The second is ‘Spectra’ by Neuwsubstance. ‘Spectra’ is a seven-storey cylindrical tower with a spiral staircase that leads up to an observation deck providing 360-degree views. The tower is encased in translucent coloured panels. creating a complete spectrum of colour. At night it is illuminated by thousands of LED lights, bathing the surrounding area in a spectra of colours. “From the outside, Spectra is an impressive architectural entity. Inside, it’s less about itself and more about the visitor experience: light, colour, and perspective change with every step… and it provides a space for reflection.” [3] 

These installations are examples of an indirect relationship between music and architecture, where there is still a dialogue between the two, yet they each function independently. An example of when the art+architecture at music festivals are directly involved with the music is ‘Loud Shadows’ by Plastique Fantastique, featured at the Oreol Festival in the Netherlands, a cultural festival focused on live theatre and music. It is a three-piece inflatable structure made by artists coming from dance, music and architecture backgrounds. This piece is the intersection between installation and stage. “It’s ephemeral skin influences the environment as much as its inner space offers a lucid view outwards. It is the preferred place to merge dance and music, and challenge the perception of time.” [4] 

The aesthetic experience of a festival is just as important as the auditory one; while the music engages our auditory senses, physical installations engage the other senses. At a festival, no two stages nor installations are ever the same. The architecture provided to house the music “serves as a unique identity, adding to the individuality and creativity behind the design of the festival. The architecture taps into the senses that the music doesn’t, while also supporting the music, and allows for a unique and multi-dimensional experience.” [5] 



[1] Tokmakova, Anastasia. “18 Amazing Examples of Festival and Event Architecture to Celebrate the End of Summer.” Archinect. August 29, 2017. Accessed April 24, 2018.

[2] Walsh, Niall Patrick. “Edoardo Tresoldi Unveils Neoclassical Wire Mesh Sculpture at Coachella Festival.” ArchDaily. April 16, 2018. Accessed April 24, 2018.

[3] “‘Spectra / Coachella 2018′.” Coachella. Accessed April 24, 2018.

[4] “Loud Shadows / Plastique Fantastique.” ArchDaily. June 14, 2017. Accessed April 24, 2018.

[5] Miller, Hannah Rose. “How to Design a Killer Stage for a Music Festival.” JZMK Partners. May 9, 2017. Accessed April 24, 2018.


1. Canevacci, Marco. Loud Shadows. In ArchDaily. June 14, 2017.

2. Coachella. 2018. In Possible Productions. 2018.

3. Conte, Roberto. Etherea. In ArchDaily. April 16, 2018.

4. Spectra. 2018. In Coachella. 2018.

5. Ibid.

6. Canevacci, Marco. Loud Shadows. In ArchDaily. June 14, 2017.

Caitlin Brice

Caitlin is currently a Master of Architecture student at The University of Western Australia.