Every two years Portugal is home to one of the most eclectic and collaborative festival experiences on the planet, Boom Festival. In it, artists gather from all over to sculpt, paint and perform with others who are drawn to this creative mecca. In the past three Booms we’ve built our share of artistic stages including the Groovy Beach, the Dance Temple and the Alchemy Circle. This year we’re pleased to unveil our newest and largest structure to date, the Boom Dance Temple; a collaborative piece built with our friends at Vita Motus.
Photo Credit: S. Zehnder
The sheer size of the structure required engineering techniques and architectural prowess we’ve yet to roll out on prior projects so it’s a true privilege to kick it up a notch in authentic Do LaB fashion. Along with the obstacles to scale the project came with interesting challenges that can only surface when collaborating with unfamiliar faces in a far off land. Our lead builder and co-founder Josh Flemming took some time to reflect on the build to share a bit on the challenges faced, the victories achieved and the inspiration behind the structure’s design.
Boom has more than 160 countries attend the festival each two years and more than 60 are represented on the build and production teams. For our stucture this year, there were team members hailing from several countries including Australia, Mexico, England, Germany, Scotland, Brazil, Austria, France, Belgium, Portugal, Italy, Spain and, of course, the US. “One of the biggest challenges at first is the language barrier.” Josh pointed out. “Everyone speaks some form of English but it’s challenging at times to know that we are all on the same page and fully understand each other. After a week you start to realize that everyone on the team understands what’s going on and you can confidently move forward.”
Photo Credit: Jakob Kolar
Staying true to ours ethos, the project was also fabricated over a 4 to 5 month span in Portugal using only locally sourced materials. To accomplish the task, Do LaB used a new material for the first time called “Vigas”, better known as glued laminated timber or glulam. “It’s an engineered lumber” Josh explained. “And it allows us to make great spans with one piece of timber without too many connections. They worked amazingly well.” Probably safe to say you can expect to see more glulam as our structures grow.
We’re incorporated new infrastructural methods to support the colossal weight of the structure too. “By experimenting with tensegrity and rigging techniques over the last 5 years” Josh said. “We’ve really been able to push the boundaries of what we can do.”
Photo Credit: Pawel Wieloch Photography
A third challenge emerged in measuring. Our entire plan was laid out from the beginning using the metric system, rather than the imperial measuring system that we use in the United States. Getting everyone onsite on the same page with the metric system raised more than a few eyebrows too. “The design was created using metric for everything so it made sense to me by the time I arrived”, laughed Josh. “But when you switch the entire team over on site it gets confusing and we have to double and triple check everything before we cut. We’ve had a few big scares out there that could have been disastrous for the project. Everything worked out okay though.”
Photo Credit: Jakob Kolar
With nearly 10 months spent planning the project, getting all the necessary materials onsite before the build teams arrived, but putting it all together presented another challenge: the tumultuous heat. “Most days are around 100 degrees and it’s up to 115 on the worst days”, Josh described. “When it’s that hot, we switch over to working all-night shifts and try to sleep in the shade during the daytime. It’s just too hot to focus on anything out there.” With conditions like these the structure was indubitably a different sort of build—not just for the sheer size of the structure, but because so much had to be overcome for the teams to bring it to life.
Photo Credit: S. Zehnder
This design is by far the largest Do LaB structure built to date at approximately 50,000 square feet. Two and a half Big Fishes, our recent installation at Coachella, can fit inside of this one. “From our initial meeting with Boom and Funktion One, we all decided that the main goal was to create a dance floor with no obstructions from columns or any other object so the sound would be pure,” described Josh. The design incorporated an open dance floor of 145 x 255ft and the entire structure was 255 x 255 x 55ft.
In our early structures, Do LaB was often inspired by vegetation and plant-life but over the years Josh has found renewed inspiration working on structure concepts inspired by animals in a Zoomorphic style. We asked Josh to reflect on the design of his latest creation to learn about how he came up with the idea. He flipped through his sketch books and realized that the shape of the structure was first drawn in a meeting in Lisbon with the Boom and Funktion One teams. “We were talking about all the functional needs of the space and the shape just naturally came out. From there months were spent developing the concept to morph it into more of a giant beetle or scarab,” he said. “There are so many great ideas all around us in nature.”
Photo Credit: Pierre Ekman
In spirit, Lightning in a Bottle and Boom Festival are reaching for some of the same goals. We both seek to create the best show possible, to build community and to foster culture centered on sustainable practices. “Since it’s so international,” Josh commented. “Boom has taught us a lot about working with a really diverse team of people. It has really inspired us to make LIB into a more international festival. Boom is also specific and unique in their messaging and ethos. They have been around for a long time and have deep roots in pschyedelic trance culture. To us, it’s an uncomprimising beacon of that culture and it has inspired and pushed us in a similar direction for the American West Coast festival scene.”
As he reflected on the growing collaborations between Do LaB and Boom, Josh thought about how special the relationship is. “We feel kind of like a sister festival and it’s rewarding to keep that going year after year (every 2 years actually, since Boom is a biannual festival). However, we have also worked with Coachella and Symbiosis in various capacities for many years now and large scale collaborating is something we plan on doing for a very long time.”
Feature Photo Credit: Jakob Kolar
For more on our incredible structures check out the design section of our website.