Colour Conference 2013: Stage Design inspired by Mount Zion
A conversation with stage designer Nathan Taylor.
Influenced by modern architectural trends, ‘Mount Zion’ is one of the most unique creative expressions over the conference to date.
Nathan Taylor, the man behind the design, takes Hillsong Collected on the journey from concept to stage design to reality.
How did you come with the concept of ‘Mount Zion’?
“I was playing around with shapes and experimenting with the possibility of using them on stage as a projection surface. Mount Zion came quickly after the United album and Bobbie was inspired by Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”“
How did you turn this concept into a workable design?
“I based the design on an architectural trend which is similar to the use of low poly where complex shapes are broken down into a simplified triangle mesh. I traced different mountains, formed lots of lines, and forced the mountains 3D shapes. Thematically it fit. Light, diamonds, Zion. I used a great app called D-mesh [dmesh.thedofl.com].
This was a really fun and hands on way for me to trace nature shapes, particularly mountains. I also used Sketchup [www.sketchup.com]”
How did you manage to build the stage?
“It took a while to meet someone mad enough to build it.”
The sheer scale in size deemed the project mad. Mad, yet clearly not impossible. Nathan embarked on the task of sourcing a set builder crazy enough to take on the feat.
A team of at least 30 people, most of which were volunteers, worked to make the design a reality. Volunteers trained in architecture assisted with stage detailing and laying the flooring, while volunteer artists helped to bring the visual details together. Builders, electricians and lighting contractors were also employed to build the stage
The set was built in parts in order for the conversion to be made and to allow for transit. The stage design was made to fit perfectly in both the Sydney Entertainment Centre and the Hills Convention Centre.
The design team were among the first to arrive at the conference venues for set up and then also the last to leave at the conclusion of each conference. The team is made up of a wide array of people with different gifts and talents in areas such as building, transporting, sourcing, drafting, painting and installing sets and props.
Without the team, ‘Mount Zion’ would have remained another good idea on a piece of paper. The team was integral to the building of the design, partly for the dedication of their gifts but mostly for their belief in the Reason behind the conference and the purpose of God through His Church.
What challenges did you face while working on this project?
“I had to make quite hard decisions about which elements needed to stay. Initially the screen existed outside the mountain but it became clear that I had to fuse the two.
Often budget constraints push you into a fresher more efficient way of doing things. It can be a sobering moment when you sit back and think about what is important about the design, and what elements you can leave out.
Creatives have elaborate ideas but you need to make sure you’re not wasting materials. Reduce it back. Be cost effective.”
Tell us about the opening night. What were you thinking when the doors finally opened?
“When it’s all up and working and you look around at the team of dedicated volunteers, talented and hardworking college students, producers, musicians and countless crew that have been a part of an event, that’s usually a moment.
They might be a bit tired as the doors open and people flood into the arena but its a real strong sense of team – almost family.
I’m a reserved English guy but when you see people connect, it’s a cool feeling. It makes it all the more meaningful.
People get to be apart of the space you have designed. They can touch it, feel it and be a part of the environment as a congregation. Hearing people sing and also engage with the space puts a massive smile on my face! It its the most uplifting feeling. Knowing what you have worked on is playing a part in helping point people towards the common focus of any Christian event – JESUS.”
Any tips for other designers out there?
“Keep up to date. Read the best design blogs. Reference the best of the best. Get a taste for it. develop your palate and design from what you see and what you digest. Get inspired by architecture and life. Don’t copy. Don’t rip people off. Feed on good design. There is great inspiration out there.
Design. Just design, even if it's rubbish. Design always. If you have a load of ideas, it’s easier to hit the ground running than to try to design on command.
I go to concerts and as many shows as possible. That’s where this is the dream job for me. I have a general love for live performances.
I love my job.”
About Nathan Taylor
Nathan is employed as a production and stage designer at church.
He has been part of the Creative team since he moved to Australia more than ten years ago. In his former life, Nathan served on the team as a guitarist and toured with United.
Nathan and his wife Lin attend the City Campus in Sydney.