Mid-Week Intermission Friend Edition: Get the Scoop on Austin’s New 3D-Printed Stage with ICON’s Brooke Bauguess
Don’t know if you’ve heard, but Austin’s got a brand new stage — a 3D-printed one, that is! In partnership with ICON, the city of course had to break in the new performance space with some live music. It’s the first in the world, after all. So in case you didn’t get to check it out during SXSW, we sat down with Brooke Bauguess, ICON’s VP of Communications, Marketing, and Public Affairs, to learn more about ICON as an Austin-based company, how this stage came to exist, plus the future of 3D printing and the arts. Read on to get the full scoop!
My name is Brooke Bauguess and I am the Vice President of Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs for ICON.
I grew up in Austin and fondly remember attending special events at Long Center and now bring my children to enjoy performances there like the Nutcracker.
3D-printing the future
Tell us ICON’s story. What are you all about?
Austin-based ICON develops advanced construction technologies in service to humanity in order to solve great problems and pursue grand opportunities. We exist as a response to the global housing crisis. Construction-scale 3D printing not only delivers higher-quality homes faster and more affordably, but fleets of printers can change the way that entire communities are built for the better. The U.S. faces a deficit of 6.5 million new homes, and worldwide there are 1.6 billion humans that lack adequate shelter. There is a profound need to swiftly increase supply without compromising quality, beauty, or sustainability, and that is exactly the strength of ICON’s technology.
ICON has delivered 3D-printed homes for folks who were experiencing chronic homelessness right here in Austin, TX, with Mobile Loaves & Fishes at Community First! Village, the first 3D-printed homes sold in the U.S., 3D-printed a Martian habitat for NASA and barracks for those serving their country with the Texas Military Department and U.S. Army, plus partnered with world-renowned architecture firm, BIG — Bjarke Ingels Group. The largest neighborhood of 3D-printed homes is underway in Georgetown, Texas, in partnership with Lennar, one of the nation’s leading homebuilders. The homes are codesigned by BIG and will be available to purchase beginning this year.
We also announced during SXSW 2023 a new collaboration with Liz Lambert to reimagine and 3D print a new 60-acre community development and expansion of El Cosmico in Marfa, TX, that will feature housing, hospitality amenities, and a hotel.
Additional social housing, disaster relief housing, and market-rate housing projects are also underway in addition to developing construction systems to create infrastructure and habitats on the Moon and eventually Mars with NASA.
Jason Ballard, ICON CEO, gives opening remarks at the unveiling. Photo Credit: Erika Rich // Tameca Jones performs on the 3D-printed cosmic pavilion. Photo Credit: Erika Rich // The Bros Fresh perform on the 3D-printed cosmic pavilion. Photo Credit: Erika Rich // First-ever concert on the new performance pavilion. Photo courtesy of ICON.
Everything begins with an idea
We know that ICON has done projects in Austin before. What sets this project apart from the others, and why did you choose the Long Center as its location?
We are still pinching ourselves that this once crazy idea to 3D-print the world’s first performance pavilion and unveil it during SXSW has come to fruition, and at the most iconic location for the arts and creative community in Austin. We began discussing the possibilities in November 2022 and before we knew it, the team at ICON was 3D printing the pavilion on the Long Center Hartman Concert Lawn by February 2023. The innovative structure, printed by ICON’s Vulcan construction system using proprietary software and advanced material, took 14 days to complete, and became the backdrop for a series of events and musical performances attended by more than 1,300 guests during SXSW.
The cosmic-inspired amphitheater is a gift from ICON, Liz Lambert, and the BIG team to the City of Austin as a creative expression of the best of Texas optimism, creativity, and innovation. The performance pavilion brings a taste of the West Texas project ICON has underway with Liz Lambert, El Cosmico, that parallels and reflects the architectural design themes made possible only by 3D printing technology. The design combines and extends some of these themes into a single, sculptural piece that serves as a landmark and a gathering space for culture, community, and the city in the heart of downtown Austin. We are beyond grateful to the City of Austin, the Long Center, and its Board members for believing in the new innovative technology and seeing the long-term vision for what the pavilion could bring to the creative culture, community, and the arts in Austin.
We look forward to seeing programming from musical acts and dance performances to theater and panel discussions taking place on the 3D-printed venue, and offering a central community gathering space with unparalleled access to the arts. My personal hope is to see children within the Austin community on stage one day soon!
In the future, we will build differently than we build today
How did the motivation for this project impact the overall look and design? What was that process like?
We have the honor of working alongside one of the greatest architects of all time, Bjarke Ingels, and his talented team at BIG. They understand what ICON’s robotic construction can bring in terms of new design vernaculars and languages and that the world doesn’t want to see straight lines and boxes. The organic forms, curves, and shapes that we’re able to make with the 3D printer are magical and otherwise seen as complex and associated with handcraft, but now made possible by robotic technology. With this particular print, we were able to bring to life curves and lofted geometries never before seen with our homes and structures printed to date. The BIG and ICON teams worked on the design and engineering plus printed a test wall at our laboratory before bringing the mobile, gantry-style printer to the Long Center. We love how it turned out and hope the community will enjoy the arts in Austin for years to come at this cosmic pavilion under the Texas stars.
How can technology continue to help the arts, and how does this project at the Long Center help Austin artists specifically?
Set with the beautiful Austin skyline as its backdrop, the performance pavilion reminds me of some of the most iconic outdoor music venues in the country. There aren’t many options for an intimate outdoor performance venue to enjoy your favorite artsits in Austin, and what I love about the Long Center is they offer free events for the public to come and enjoy like The Drop-In concerts, which begin May 25th. Supporting the local music scene is one of many ways we see this stage being utilized, and we are thrilled to have played a small part in making the arts even more accessible for Austinites and visitors to town.
Any tips for how everyday folks can support the arts and community through technology, too?
ICON announced during SXSW the launch of Initiative 99, a global architecture competition to reimagine affordable housing and aimed at designing accessible, beautiful, and dignified homes that can be built for under $99,000. Registration for the competition opens in the summer of 2023 and architects from all over the world including firms, individuals, and university students are encouraged to participate. The multi-phase, year-long competition offers a total prize purse of $1 million. ICON has committed to building a selection of the winning designs at multiple locations to be announced in the future.
If you know of an architect, designer, or dreamer who wants to make a difference, please encourage them to sign up to hear when registration opens for Initiative 99. Everyone deserves a dignified home. At ICON, we believe 3D printing is the way to deliver homes at scale and that the housing of the future must be different from the housing we have known. In the future, we will build differently than we build today.
What a way to start our 15th year! And we’ve got more where that came from. Look out for more announcements about The Drop-In and we’ll see you on the lawn to experience the new performance pavilion really soon!
At the Long Center, we’ve always got a new partnership or something cool we know you’ll want to check out! Find and follow us @longcenter on your social media platform of choice, and we’ll see you real soon.