Notions of the viewer and the frame within the traditions of western visual arts and cinema have long been subjects of experimentation. Guiding the viewer’s gaze upon an artwork is often achieved through layers of subtleties extending deep within the physical frame of an artwork. These can include foregrounding techniques or “Repoussoir”, graphic accents of a visual composition, manipulation of light and visual focus, and the design of backdrop or a visual field in relief.
Architecture ultimately is itself a frame, granting the opportunity to direct interactions between people, as well as spatial and visual perception. The theatre brief of this studio offers an obvious opportunity to explore of this concept. The “Architectural Frame” though often exploited by the visual arts (consider location scouting, mise en scene or set design), is not well recognised in contemporary architectural or spatial design thinking. This studio therefore aims to appropriate and adapt the methods of art and cinema and explore their application for the designing of opening, enclosure, light and shadow – the architectural experience.
The proposal for this class is to refit Customs House Library at Circular Quay, to create a new Performing Arts Centre including an auditorium, studio theatres, galleries for visual and multimedia art, as well as offices and back-of-house facilities. The class will explore notions of the architectural frame, utilising the brief to rethink and transform the traditional theatre and its role framing the viewer and the viewed. Students will be encouraged to imagine the roles and experiences of the different building users in order to design spatial relationships of access and display, of viewing hierarchies, and framed scenarios as visitors and users move through and around the building.