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Theatre Architecture

Mission Statement

 

The purpose of the Theatre Architecture Working Group is to explore all that theatre architecture has been historically, is at present, and might be in the future. We consider built projects alongside unbuilt or speculative architectures, studying these from a wide range of practical and theoretical perspectives. We continue to investigate the ways in which space can be manipulated to bring performers and spectators into dynamic relationship inside auditoria, asking, in addition, how the design of other areas inside and outside the theatre building conditions the experience(s) of audiences and practitioners. Over the next four years, we will be focusing on the active role played by theatre environments - whether purpose-built or ‘found’ - in shaping theatre and performance across cultures. We seek to: develop theoretical paradigms appropriate to theatre and architecture and to the relationship between them; propose rigorous yet imaginative methodologies for the documentation, preservation, conservation and archiving of theatre architecture; and, provide new ways of perceiving and producing performance space.

 

Convenors:

Juliet Rufford j.e.rufford@qmul.ac.uk

Andrew Filmer  awf@aber.ac.uk

Next meeting: Warwick 2014.

Last meeting: Barcelona 2013 and at every IFTR conference since Helsinki in 2006.

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In 2014, the Theatre Architecture Working Group will be taking the annual IFTR conference as an opportunity to gather research on a related set of concerns around performance and architecture with a view to compiling a collection of peer-reviewed essays for an intended journal special issue. Co-convenors / co-editors Andrew Filmer and Juliet Rufford are particularly interested in research that fits into one of the following three broad categories of enquiry: a) theatre projects - built or speculative, including new readings of historic theatres and arguments about theatre architecture today; b) performance practices that closely engage, radically undermine, critically re-examine or nakedly depend on architecture for their meaning and value as well as architectural practices that employ performance and/or theatricality to transform our experiences in and of the built; and, c) inter-disciplinary pedagogies driven by the question of what is gained for students of one discipline in the encounter between that discipline and the other.

 

a) PROJECTS

Major studies of theatre architecture and performance space such as Marvin Carlson's Places of Performance (1989) and David Wiles' A Short History of Western Performance Space (2003) have made a significant impact on the way theatre and performance scholars analyse the theatrical event. From these, we have gained enhanced awareness of why the theatre's stages and social spaces have taken the forms they have, how the theatre building signifies within the urban text and how it acts as an aestheticizing environment, conditioning acts of performance and spectatorship. But there remain sizeable gaps in our knowledge of theatre architecture from the last two decades of the twentieth century onwards, and of non-Western architectures for performance - particularly in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific. What are the key contemporary developments in the design of architecture for theatre and performance? How have indigenous or local cultural concerns adapted, appropriated or contested European theatre typologies? We are interested in critical case studies and in broader arguments about the past, present and future of theatre architecture. Research might include (but should not be limited to):

 

- new or planned theatre projects - especially from beyond Europe and North America
 
- re-readings or re-thinkings of historic theatre architecture in the light of, say, developments in spatial theory
 
- theories and arguments about historic preservation or theatre renovations
 
- theatre buildings as drivers for urban regeneration
 
- questions about the relevance of the playhouse as a genre / typology (see Hannah 2007)
 
 
b) PRACTICES
 
Performance and the 'performative turn' have influenced architectural theory and practice, prompting attention to the body and lived experience, to event, encounter, agency, improvisation, temporality, provisionality and affect, and occasioning a shift in emphasis 'from what a building is to what it does' (Leatherbarrow in Kolarevic & Malkawi 2005). This renewed encounter between architecture and performance is generating vibrant critical and creative work amongst architects, urban planners, historians and curators.
 
If the influence of performance on architecture is to some degree known, perhaps the significance of architecture for performance theory and theatre and performance practice requires further articulation. Both the influence of architectural training, or an architectural sensibility, on the practices of performance-makers and the significance of collaborations between theatre-makers and architects require further investigation. Important work has begun to explore dramaturgy and architecture as analogous practices (Turner and Behrndt 2008) and whilst playwrights from Ibsen to Kane have been identified as 'architects of drama' (Cohn 2001) it might be argued that certain kinds of non theatrically-housed immersive theatre and / or architecturally-oriented performance installation offer more fruitful examples of an architectonics of performance, exploring the links between structure, form, technology, materiality, and spatial narrative. Where else might we locate the architectural and the architectonic in historical and contemporary performance practice? Where next for debates about performance or performativity in architecture? Research might include (but should not be limited to):
 
- theatricalism and / or theatricality in architecture
 
- performance architecture and / or architectural performance
 
- architectures of cruelty / affective architectures
 
- appropriations of architectural concepts and practices to performance-making
 
- collaborations between performance-makers and architects or between practitioners and theorists from across disciplines
 
- redefinitions of Bernard Tschumi's concept of event-space
 
- buildings and the performance of power
 
- 'critical spatial practice' (Rendell 2008) and 'spatial agency' (Awan, Schneider & Till 2011)
 
- the architectonics of performance and / or architectural dramaturgies
 
- performance-installation and other examples of architecture as drama
 
 
c) PEDAGOGIES
 
The discipline of architecture is already recognising the value of performance in the education of architects, enabling students to test and develop concepts and designs through prototyping and embodied inhabitation and to form more nuanced understandings of how architecture is contingent on the human relationships, actions and patterns of occupation that characterise a building's life from design to demolition. Performance as pedagogical method serves the development of 'other ways of doing architecture' (Awan, Schneider & Till 2011), breaking down architecture's presumed autonomy as a discipline and critiquing its dominant working methods. We welcome papers that explore how performance as concept and as array of practices is being used in architectural pedagogy. We also ask how architectural theory and practice might offer critical constructional tools for performance pedagogy. For instance, how might an awareness of architecture and architectonics enrich theatre and performance pedagogy, generating new insights into dance and physical theatre training, into choreographic practice or into site-specific and immersive theatre and performance? We welcome proposals that focus on (but need not be limited to):
 
- applications of performance theory and practice in architectural pedagogy
 
- applications of architectural theory and practice in performance pedagogy
 
- inter-disciplinary, cross-disciplinary, synthetic or unified pedagogies
 
- the uses of construction or 'constructedness' in teaching writing for performance, dramaturgy, or devised performance practices
 
- the architectural in scenographic and performance design pedagogy
 
- choreographic or devising tools that engage with the architecture of movement (for instance, William Forsythe's 'choreographic objects')
 
- pedagogical architectures: power, discipline and 'dressage' (Lefebvre 2004)
 
 
Abstracts (up to 300 words) will be accepted in English and French although the group's primary working language is English.
 
Abstracts are due by 15 January 2014 and notice of acceptance will be given towards the end of February 2014.
 
Abstracts should be submitted through the IFTR's online system, managed by Cambridge Journals. Please visit http://iftr2014warwick.org/?page_id=144. Please note that accepted abstracts will be published in the Congress's Abstracts Book. Additional information such as the form the proposed submission will take, or information about restrictions to your availability over the course of the IFTR World Congress, should be included on the online form under 'Equipment required.'
 
Completed papers are submitted by email to both convenors by the end of June 2014. Papers will then be distributed to the groups' members for discussion. Group members are expected to read all papers in advance of the WG meetings, and to come prepared to give a short presentation around their own paper as well as engaging in productive discussion about all other group members' papers.
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