Manifesto 2015-16

Be it theatre, dance, rap or poetry, performance transports us from one immediate and local reality to another: our senses and imagination the trigger and tether to both.  To physically travel or to engage in something new is a similar experience: our bodies, thoughts and sensations are the link; a point of reference and calibration.  In turn natural phenomena, landscape and weather: mountains, glaciers, oceans, deserts, volcanoes, geysers, storms, avalanches, thunder and lightning, are both an endless source of sublime artistic (and scientific) inspiration, and are “perfomative” in their own right, with people travelling the globe and re-defining the “Seven Wonders” since the earliest times.

Over the year the projects will develop your architectural responses to the choreography of place and the inter-connection between people on the stage, in the wings, behind the scenes, front of house, and in the audience. We will experience the repetition of rehearsal, the craft behind the set, and the fantasy of performance.

Home of the Aurora Borealis, active volcanoes, geysers, and glaciers, combined with endless winter nights and summer days, Iceland is a highly “performative” radically transforming landscape; a fertile well of music, myths, and legends; and an ideal location to explore and define the architecture of performance and place.

But we start working in Soho London’s West End “Theatreland” to explore the process and craft of making, performing, staging and housing performance, and the spatial and conceptual relationship between: performers, makers, audience and place; before re-locating to Reykjavik at the boundary between landscape and city, people and place, light and dark.

The route is as important as the destination, cherishing the process enriches the product, and so we will start with a journey.

Projects:              Through five projects you will cultivate a critical dialogue between performance, place, landscape, enclosure, permanent, seasonal, temporary, resources and needs:

  1. Record: A spatial record of a specific performance from multiple perspectives: on stage/back stage/front of house/in the audience
  2. Stage: Tackled in pairs, a prototypical urban “bandstand”: open air stage with minimal backstage facilities, for external performance, engaging with place, people and the city
  3. Set: An intensive site section and plan of the Reykjavik, measured in Iceland, drawn in Oxford, to uncover the critical site conditions for the “Performance” project
  4. Rehearsal: Re-deploying the “Stage” project in Reykjavik to test and explore the “Set” site analysis in preparation for the main project
  5. Performance: Complete proposals for a self-sufficient “performance complex” for Reykjavik to respond to the spectacle of ever shifting

Field Trip:             Leaving on 30th Oct we travel to the wild “performative” landscape of Iceland before exploring the cultural hub of the island to coincide with the “Airwaves” festival

Approach:            The unit is focused on developing and nourishing design skills by actively encouraging invention and experimentation, and seeking the strategies, tactics and tools that generate unique and appropriate designs, specific to place, activity and people.  Our approach is multi-faceted, diverse and hybrid, and is not bound to a single design tool, or intellectual doctrine, but embraces what feels “appropriate” in search of a “bespoke” response, enriched and refined through each iteration.

Curiosity and debate are critical to the agenda, Pallasmaa “The Eyes of the Skin”, James Corner “The Landscape Imagination” and Peter Brook “The empty space”, points of departure

You will establish individual spatial and programmatic briefs for the projects through in-depth research, experimentation and testing of each activity proposed, and drawing on your personal experience, knowledge, obsessions and skills, to provide a rich and rigorous reading of the spatial, perceptual, material, technical, contextual and cultural requirements.

Intensive drawing, making and experiments will take you to the heart of an architecture of purpose and place.

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