John McMorrough – Theater Ex Machina: Building Performance

The studio works from the premise that buildings and institutions come into existence as parallel developments, and, if one is to redefine (build anew) an institution, one must first study and understand that institution’s existence within the context of containment (i.e., the buildings that house them). To this end, the studio employs a three-fold research-based approach to the study and design of the institutional building. The first phase focuses on the gathering, filtration, and synthesis of programmatic and conceptual data. The second phase works to marshal the forces (logistical and cultural) of the institution’s operation into productive design criteria. The final phase identifies potentials within the institutional lineage for new and surprising (i.e., liberating) configurations in relation to its typological history. The results of the studio are emphatically buildings, described both geometrically (drawings, models) and logically (diagrams, narratives).

We will explore this in parallel with the ongoing transformation of the building sector, particulary a“Theater ex Machina: Building Performance” draws from the legacy of early Greek theater design (in its coordination of orientation, format, and mechanics) to propose contemporary theaters that position a mediated relationship between audience and performer in the form of frame tectonics and overt scenographics (expressed as simple machines). Studio readings include sections from The History of the Greek and Roman Theater by Margarete Bieber, The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche, and The Frogs by Aristophanes.

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Student Work

Shoshanna Sidell – “Pulpitum/Catwalk”

The front of house form is an abstraction of the scalloped shape of a Roman stage, or pulpitum. A rectilinear version of the extrusion creates the back of house, with each room shaped to an efficient orientation and then stacked along a catwalk-like circulation space.
The duality between the front of house and back of house spaces is further reinforced by the implied division line between the stage and the auditorium. The front and back of house intersect at this line, the programs are arrayed on their designated sides around their program anchor – stage or auditorium. The spaces, facades, and circulation patterns become abstracted versions of themselves as they reflect along the dividing line.

Zach Stewart – “Scaenae Frons / Back of House”

In the classical theater, the scaenae frons served as a permanent architectural backdrop for performances and ushered actors on and off stage with underlying meanings. The back of house of the contemporary theater services the performances happening on stage, doing so outside the view of the public. This theater takes these two programmatic organizational strategies and applies them to the building as a whole. The resultant theater ushers users and the public through the site and the building in highly prescribed ways as well as showcases typically hidden, back of house program on the building facade as a means to activate a typically inactive building typology.

Jun Zhou – “Velarium / Auditorium”

Velarium and Auditorium are the precedents for this theatre design. They represent the idea of choosing a proper envelope to create a better environment for audiences.

The site has a natural slope and is surrounded by the Palmer parking structure and Feltch Park. The main façade faces North since Glen Avenue and East Huron Street provide a great spot to see it. In terms of achieving the adaptation of the given site, a 3-strip scheme is applied, with BOH attached to Palmer Parking Structure, the Lobby attached to E Huron St, and the Auditorium located in the middle.

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