A Ragdale Ring for a New Century


Ragdale Ring. Photograph © Rachel Harper.

Ragdale Ring. Photograph © Rachel Harper.

One hundred and one years ago, Ragdale, the Lake Forest nonprofit artist residency program ,and Arts and Crafts architect Howard Van Doren Shaw designed the original Ragdale Ring, an outdoor performance space.

Earlier this year, a mere century later, Ragdale launched a design competition inviting architects and designers to create contemporary works, essentially updating Shaw’s original space. The winning design team was awarded a $10,000 production grant to fund the project, and a design/build residency.

The lead designer of the winning entry is Stephen Dietrich Lee, project manager at Sweeney & Conroy in New York. Last month, Lee’s work was unveiled behind the Ragdale House (1260 Green Bay Road). It’s based on a repetitive pattern of wooden elements that creates a dynamic, sculptural lacework.

Zurich Esposito, executive vice president of AIA Chicago, served on the jury along with David Woodhouse and Frank Flury. Esposito said he and his fellow jurors had a tough assignment because all the entries were visually compelling.

“The jury was looking for an original, contemporary response—not in any way a replica of Shaw’s work — that would create visual impact on the grounds of Ragdale without being a blot on the landscape,” Esposito said.

“The strong gesture and rhythm of the structural system of the design selected as the winner is what, in my eyes, blurs the distinction between art and architecture,” he said. “It makes for a beguiling surround, or halo, over and around performers who present from it.”

More information

Ragdale Ring. Photograph © Rachel Harper.

Ragdale Ring. Photograph © Rachel Harper.

Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at bill@ChicagoArchitecture.org.

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