Gearing Up for Louisville’s Centennial Riverboat Festival: Pavilions as Functioning Waterside Attractions

by Stanley Collyer

Winning entry by stmpj

The Belle of Louisville, the oldest operating steamboat in the United States, will be celebrating a century of service in October, 2014. Not only will steamboats from throughout the Mississippi river basin be part of the festivities, a design competition for pavilions, intended to be placed at strategic points along the riverfront, has been organized, and a winner announced.


A temporary pavilion as a festival feature would seem to be a logical object for an event like this. Serpentine Galleries annual pavilions in London’s Hyde Park, designed by various well-known architects, have acted as major crowd attractions in recent years. The sponsors of this competition had to be well aware of the potential of such an object as an integral part of the festivities. But in contrast to the Serpentine, this pavilion had a duel function: not only be a visual attraction, but also accommodate a variety of activities—performance space, seating, bourbon tasting space, or areas for vending and exhibitions.

The competition was organized as a one-stage event, and attracted 65 entries from around the world. Although the prize money for the winner(s) was minimal, the attraction for designers here was that it is a real project (So few of those are available in this country at the moment).

The winners were:

• 1st place (#116) stpmj (Seung Teak Lee and Mi Jung Lim), Brooklyn, NY

• 2nd place (#110) Aaron Loomans, Appleton, WI

• People’s choice (#112) Jacob Lange & Rebecca Tran (Christian Duvernois Landscape/Gallery) w/ Chris Teeter, RA ( Metamechanics) New York, NY


Honorable Mentions

• Entry #108, Buro Koray Duman, New York, NY

• Entry #117, Camilo Cerro & Daniel Chavez, American University of Sharja, UAE

• Entry #132, Meredith McCarthy – Architect /Emily Goldenberg – Designer / Chris Hardy – Designer; Boston, MA

• Entry #155, Jeffery Cheung & Carolina Jimenez, New York, NY

The competition jury was comprised of:

• Rick Bell, Louisville Waterfront Historian
• Karen Gillenwater, Curator, Carnegie Center for Art and History New Albany, IN
• Augusta Brown Holland, Community Developer
• Nat Irvin II, Strickler Chair, University of Louisville College of Business
• Representative Joni Jenkins, Kentucky House District 44
• Sarah Lyon, Photographer
• Kulapat Yantrasast, Founder & Principal, wHY Architecture

The competition was administered by PART Studio, LLC and sponsored by sonaBLAST! Records of Louisville, the latter headed up by Gill Holland, a local neighborhood advocate and developer. Fortunately, all of the entries were on exhibit at the Museum of Art and Craft in Louisville, where the visitors could vote on their favorites.



Winning entry by stpmj (click to enlarge)

According to the jury report, the winning entry, “DRIFT proposes a triangular arrangement of eight foot diameter balloons that create a dynamic canopy over bourbon tastings, educational spaces for children and other groups. Jurors praised the project for its unexpected playfulness and relationship to historic river imagery. The design was interpreted by the panel of jurors as a type of inverted raft with romantic allusions to the journeys of Huckleberry Finn as well as the flatboats that once populated Louisville’s wharf in great numbers.”

Although stpmj’s balloon scheme did provide an element of the whimsical to the winning entry, there could be little doubt that aesthetics took a back seat to the functional in this case. Also, it is questionable whether or not the imagery voiced by the jury is something that the casual viewer might be able to identify with at first glance.

2nd place entry by Aaron Loomans (click to enlarge)

The Second Place entry by Aaron Loomans of Appleton, Wisconsin was more interesting visually, but one wonders if it could be built, even with the most rudimentary materials, i.e., plywood, for the $8,000 target set by the sponsors.

Its strength lay in its flexibility, whereby the basic structure could be manipulated to accommodate various functions. Also, its flowing imagery might suggest the movement of the steamboat paddles and cascading water.

People’s Choice entry by Jacob Lange & Rebecca Tran (click to enlarge)

The People’s Choice entry by Jacob Lange & Rebecca Tran could have simply been anticipated due to its paddle-wheel imagery. This obviously was a little too derivative for the jury.

Honorable mention by Buro Koray Duman, New York, NY (click to enlarge)
Honorable mention by Camilo Cerro & Daniel Chavez, American University of Sharja, UAE (click to enlarge)
Honorable mention by Meredith McCarthy – Architect /Emily Goldenberg – Designer / Chris Hardy – Designer; Boston, MA (click to enlarge)
Honorable mention by Jeffery Cheung & Carolina Jimenez, New York, NY (click to enlarge)