Project 4: (iterative) Performance


Reykjavik, the “smoking beach” capital city of Iceland founded by Ingólfur Arnarson in 874 where his high-seat pillars washed-up after being cast into the Atlantic Ocean, remains a precarious settlement on the edge of the Arctic circle, perched on the extraordinary “young”, ever-changing, and growing “performative” Icelandic landscape.  Beneath the violent yet magical Arctic sky, Iceland is home to a resilient, resourceful, and playful population who remain unusually connected to their landscape, their history, and their personal legends.  This is the territory for the “Performance” project, addressing audience and performers, the cataclysmic and erratic, the mundane and everyday.

Iceland is a landscape of subtle chance, regular destruction, cyclical renewal and seasonal extremes: endless winter nights and summer days; farmland, buildings, and mountains lost and found beneath lava, ash, ice and moss, land rising from or falling into the sea; volcanic and tectonic activity simultaneously creating mineral rich landscapes and destroying them while providing abundant carbon neutral heat and energy: the rough with the smooth: abundant; merciless, beautiful, tedious and all consuming.

Into this arena the Performance project will exchange skills, knowledge, tools, resources and environmental conditions, for stories, music, dance, cinema, energy, light, food, drink, and joy; supported by the necessary infrastructure to make it work, to achieve a critical relationship between people, process, performance and place, and draw a community together.


At it’s core the Performance project will comprise a proposal for Reykjavik that hosts a specific Performance and Audience to form an interchange between local and global communities of performers, production, backstage and front-of-house staff and the wider public, drawing on cultural traditions and innovations, resources and opportunities; tapping into the performative landscape to make a useful “Contribution” to the city. The project may cater for an existing situation or identify a new opportunity, but will need to celebrate and adapt to the radical seasonal transformation, introspective in winter, and extrovert in summer to embrace the endless light.

The nature of the Performance and interface with the Audience will define the program of spaces, activities, processes and appropriate scale of intervention, drawn from the choice of site in Reykjavik, the ideas developed in the Record and Stage projects, and the reading of the place and people revealed through the Tri-Section.

2nd Year students should aim to develop propositions at a scale equivalent to 5 performers, 100 strong audience, and supported by minimal backstage facilities, the project should offer enough to fully engage with the local community (think studio theatre). 3rd Year projects should be hosting a company of around 20 performers, 500 seats and all the necessary spaces to design, make, rehearse and perform original work; think small regional production theatre (Pegasus, Oxford), addressing the local community and wider city.

Being specific and precise about the Purpose, the Performance, and the Audience will give credibility and definition to the scope and reach of the proposals.



The Performance project will occupy the Reykjavik site chosen on the Field trip.

The site, strategy, and purpose of the Performance project will be based on an acute conceptual, physical and emotional reading of place and potential within it’s Reykjavik site and city conditions, as initially explored through the Tri-Section project.


  • Existing occupation of the site – buildings/landscape/use/people
  • Adjacent occupation of the site – buildings/landscape/use/people
  • Who lives here? who works here? who plays here?
  • Local production: crafts, trades and activities
  • Connections to traditional performances: stories, plays, music, dance etc.
  • Links to seasonal festivals: traditional, historical and contemporary
  • Historical use of the site
  • Historical and mythical connections to the site, city and territory
  • Associations with the site
  • Topography
  • Prevailing weather conditions
  • Environmental conditions
  • Seasonal transformation of the site
  • The nature of the ground
  • Archaeology of the site
  • Availability and proximity of resources
  • Views from the site
  • Views of the site from the land and from the sea
  • Local fauna and flora (what is growing or living on the site)
  • Local harvest (land or sea): natural and geothermal cultivation and crops, energy, water, light, minerals and fisheries
  • Access to the site and connection to the city, the coast, the mountains

While on the field trip you will need to intensively survey the site and test your observations in order to bring away with you all the material and evidence required to draw a measured site plan and site section and make accurate site models to capture both the idea and fabric of the place.


Spatial Brief:

The core of the Performance proposal is the “Production”, a natural phenomenon, manmade performance, event, spectacle, or happening that communicates, entertains and transports a specific and defined “Audience” and through the generation and presentation of the “Production”: the writing, making, rehearsing and hosting the you will define the “Contribution”. The Record, Stage and Tri-Section projects will have identified some of the possible starting points.

To define the “Production” consider the performers, directors, authors, resources, techniques, crafts, expertise, obsessions, and traditions new and existing.

To define the “Audience” identify a community their passions, their heritage, legends and stories, shared fears, delight, joy, concerns and pride.

To define the “Contribution” consider how the local community engages with the “Performance”.

An intimate knowledge of the production process, timescales, and quantities will be critical to sizing, designing and organizing the Performance both in terms of brief and architectural strategy. And so an essential step in defining your proposal will be to do-it/make-it yourself, considering and documenting:


The form of performance, the nature of the performance space, the number of players, nature of the stage, instruments, props, equipment and costumes, the timing and duration of the performance, duration of the season, back-stage facilities, storage, workshops, and operation


How many, how they engage with the performance, where they are from, their age, expectations, local etiquette and traditions, and front-of-house needs


Local employment, contribution to public space or the public realm, communication, inspiration, delight and education


The use of each term: Production, Audience and Contribution is deliberately open ended: literal and direct, poetic and lateral, analogous and suggestive. Harness the power of language to inform and enrich your architecture.

The connection of the “Performance” to the local community and place is critical to making sense of the proposition.

The intertwining links between Production, Audience and Contribution needs to be captured in a single drawing or model documenting all the processes, sequences and adaptations to become a visual brief for the project, spatial-ized at the scale of your proposal and brought to site.

The spatial organization and spatial experience of the Performance will be defined by the activities, the people, the seasonal response, the city-scape, the weather, the materials, the machinery, movement, noise, smells, and atmosphere.

The architecture is expected to reflect the activities, seasons and their inter-connections with place to establish a critical spatial dialogue between the proposal, the city, and Iceland’s performative transitional landscape.



As a sustainable 21st century building the Performance project will need to address the question of autonomy:

Autonomous:    Grow, harvest and produce it’s own energy, water, and resources


Community:      Sourcing, and encouraging local productivity as part of a wider network

Linking the Performance proposals to Iceland’s extraordinary performative landscape and sense of place, will be connection to the ground and how the proposals stand up, the materials and methods of construction, and the nature and qualities of the internal (and external environments). Your proposals may be a hybrid of local and homespun, self-grown and harvested, permanent, temporary or experimental, or deliberately alien introducing something new, each as you deem to be appropriate to your definition of an Architecture where “necessity is the mother of invention.”

But make no assumptions on what is or is not sustainable in a smoking landscape of abundant energy and minerals, but where much of the land is desert, without trees or a fossil record.

In William McDonough’s and Michael Braungart’s “Cradle to Cradle” the analogy is to a cherry tree, which produces a natural abundance in excess of necessity in response to the changing seasons and conditions: each process positively contributing to further abundance in the next process, benefiting both the cherry tree and other local and associated organisms – there is no waste.

Your response to the materials, construction, structure and environmental design of the Performance will be in parallel and intertwined with conceptual spatial design process, to seek to be a synthesis between production, bye-production, performance, people, and place.



  • The Stage and Record projects will inform the Performance purpose, the Tri-Section linking the ideas to your conceptual and emotional reading of Reykjavik.
  • Your site investigation will translate into a highly tuned site model, a site to develop your proposals.
  • Your documentation of the intertwined Production, Audience and Contribution will develop into a 3-dimensional spatial brief and strategic organization, informed by personal exploration of the production processes (DIY), intensive research and your reading of site.
  • The opportunities and activities defined by the 3-dimensional spatial brief, combined with your personal reading of Reykjavik and research into the Audience, Production and Contributions will develop into a conceptual proposal.
  • Negotiating the strategic spatial brief with a strategic response to the site and your conceptual proposal will bring you to an initial proposition on site

From your initial proposition:

  • Work inwards through models and drawings to test and develop the final arrangement of spaces in terms of spatial experience, process and occupation
  • And      Outwards through models and drawings to test and develop the final relationship to the transitional landscape and the city
  • And      In parallel to test and develop your final ideas for the materiality, structure, construction and environmental design, to inform your architecture


Use any media, material or technique that is appropriate to best explore, test and communicate your ideas

The complete project, essence and narrative of the iterative design process will be presented in no more than 30no. A2 (Or equivalent) Hybrid portfolio sheets integrating constructed, drawn, rendered, sketched, collaged, photographic and diagrammatic components into each sheet will include design, process, technology, models, materials, samples, textual annotation and carefully considered and analysed precedents.

The final drawings will include finely crafted 2-dimensional plans, sections, elevations, site plans and site sections, together with:

  • A thorough spatial exploration of the underlying strategic, organisational and conceptual ideas
  • A 3-dimensional exploration of the spatial experience within the proposal and of the proposal in the context of the city
  • A detailed exploration of the materials, construction of the proposal, the structure, and the critical qualities and control of the internal/external environment

Iterative process work not incorporated in the Hybrid sheets will be curated within a bound “Process Folio” (Or Equivalent) to be read in parallel with the portfolio.


Introduction:                   Thursday 4th December                            Week 11            Semester 1

Initial Review:                 Monday 1st February                                   Week 1             Semester 2

Working Review:            Thursday 3rd March                                     Week 5

Interim Review:               Thursday 24th March                                 Week 8

Final Review:                    3rd yr Cross Crit Monday 11th April          Week 9

2nd yr Cross Crit Thursday 14th April      Week 9

Portfolio Submission:    2nd yr Wednesday 11th May                        Week 13

3rd yr Thursday 12th May                           Week 13