Challenging Place with Narrative: The Progress towards a Performance

By William MacMahon.

Published by The Design Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper concerns the collaborative studio held in 2009 involving students of the Faculty of the Built Environment, University of New South Wales, (FBE, UNSW) working with those of the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). The students worked with the director to develop a performance titled “Lots In Space” based upon a variety of texts including those of Jacobean dramas. The performance involved activating the axial mall of UNSW through performance, lighting, projected film and animation. The audience walked the mall and the structure of the narrative was set by the architecture and landscape of the space. The architecture and texts were not combined in a chronological nor rational structure. The director adopted a free-association of imagery originating from texts but structured loosely in the manner of a Jacobean drama. Decisions regarding the choice of which imagery and which action in a particular location were made as much by reference to the architecture as to the narrative of the text; an approach the students found confusing. Michel de Certeau’s “Walking in the City” was central to understanding the director’s approach to the performance. For de Certeau the city is consumed by its occupants and the tactics of use add as much vitality as the strategic objectives of the planners. The author makes use of the idea of pedestrian pathways as personal narratives of the city. Narrative pathways suggest an alternative design method through a tactical approach rooted in the negotiation of the minutiae of organisation and the favouring of the particular to the general. Such an approach offers benefits to group design projects whereby the rigour of a central designer is instead replaced by a free-flowing narrative pathway giving acceptability to the idea that a loose structure can bend to allow response at the detail level without the notion of the whole strategy being compromised.

Keywords: Design Education, Design Collaboration, Performance, Phenomenology

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp.213-218. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 593.339KB).

William MacMahon

Lecturer, Interior Architecture, Faculty of the Built Environment, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia

William MacMahon is an architect and lecturer in the field of Interior Architecture. William runs a practice called PHI design and architecture in Sydney. His primary interests are in restaurant, hotel design, projection work and collaborating with artists to produce integrated public art.

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