Unit: ARENA

Unit Leader | Alessandro Columbano  BCU   |   Unit Tutor | William Gottelier, IF-DO

“Parade Route visually traces the itinerary of the annual tournament of the Roses Parade in California. I do not see in isolated distinctly framed moments; rather I see in connected, layered occurrences in time. I see many things collectively creating a sense of place.”

Unit: ARENA is named after the BBC TV series that captures the art, design, filmmaking and theatre scene since 1975. We explore the perception of the visual aesthetics of image and sequential space/s within the necessary function architecture needs to provide [camera]. This is in tandem with the political and cultural narratives contained within visual culture today [chapter].

The architectural process used by students is derived from the digital drawing techniques of cinemetrics by Brian McGrath and Jean Gardener, and its methods of interpreting Robin Evan’s ideas on The Projective Cast. The results create an understanding of space that goes beyond a mechanical approach to representing architecture to one of three geometries: geometric, projective and symbolic.

Camera and projections become instruments for drawing sequences of the imagined and re-imagined stories in spaces and structures. Cinema and scenography as a visual art form takes on an (architectural) sculptural dimension that we can use to design dramatic and evocative environments.

ARENA wraps this in the context of our city, and its creative eco-system, with a mixture of events that enrich its cultural heritage. ARENA explores the typology of a festival – or the city as a festival. This year, we explored Birmingham Opera Company’s world premier staging of Mittwoch Aus Licht by Karlheinz Stockhausen in 2012. The event remains a renowned cultural moment for the city that was streamed across the world. BOC has been setting a new standard for contemporary interpretations in opera; “The most 

radical and challenging voice on the UK Opera scene” (The Times). BOC’s work reflects the city we work in with our diverse audiences, artists and the stories that we tell.

The medium has always embraced innovative formats to depict emerging tastes and tales of our time.

However, access to opera is limited and seen as elitist. But opera can, and should be, relevant for our time to communicate ‘new narratives and timely topics’ in addition to the classical tales. Our studies have tested power structures and hierarchies that exist in society and the arts sector. Design proposals challenge how architecture can contrast against these with transient and permanent performance venues that intersect established or unexpected civic spaces.

Acknowledgements: Birmingham Opera Company, Nevill Holt Opera, Witherford Watson Mann Architects

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