As architects and designers, we hold the same responsibilities as poets and painters, filmmakers, and dreamers: To be story tellers who create a world around us that inspire and uplift us. Look around you, too much of today’s architecture is as bland as it is banal.

Storytelling is common to every known culture, and it’s uniquely human. These stories permeate our lives and societies and involve a symbiotic relationship between teller and listener that began when we first gathered around our tribal campfires. Prof. Yuval Noah Harari, in his book Sapiens, argues that the ability to communicate and imagine common myths has given us immense ability to cooperate on a large scale. He writes:

“…fiction has enabled us not merely to imagine things, but to do so collectively. We can weave common myths such as the biblical creation story, the Dreamtime myths of Aboriginal Australians, and the nationalist myths of modern states. Such myths give Sapiens the unprecedented ability to cooperate flexibly in large numbers.”

And it’s not just the great collective myths. The heroes we worship, the clothes they advertise, and we wear, the games we play, all tell stories. And so do musicians, artists, and of course architects.

Advanced Studio outline:

This studio will explore a future of Entertainment Architecture where the digital realm increasingly encroaches onto the physical one. We will explore, exploit, and expose new meanings of space, experiences and memories that put the audience into the centre of a new reality. By creating a new typology of touring show, theatre or any other imagined new kind of entertainment architecture, the Studio will take a position on the future of what it means to be entertained.

Architecture and entertainment have always been closely related. Whether it was used to augment and embellish the presence of Pharaohs, Popes, Popstars and the People, architecture is a powerful tool to convey their message to the masses. The medium of architecture is part of the message. What message we want to deliver is our responsibility as architects and story tellers.

There is no society that does not have entertainment as part of their cultural expression. We are tribal by nature and have a common desire and need to share our experiences with our tribe. Cities like Las Vegas and Macau are synonymous with entertainment and others like Osaka and Orlando increasingly weave entertainment and architecture together to create new urban experiences. The London West End or New York’s Broadway district are inextricably linked with entertainment, yet the enveloping architecture speaks very little of what goes on within.

Touring shows and mass entertainment go back millennia and in more recent times have evolved into a sophisticated industry creating and commodifying powerful memories.

We now stand at a crossroads. The pandemic put a temporary stop to physical mass gatherings and saw a rapid growth in the digital one.

At this point in the crossroad, there is a decision and a division to be made on the future of Entertainment Architecture. A polarisation is arising between the analogue and the digital, but it shouldn’t be seen as a fight as there is no definitive outcome-both will most likely prevail, and both have the potential to create a better future.

However, a distinction must be made between the physical and digital realms that in turn, reinforce the motives behind entertainment and architecture and make its role in creating and commodifying powerful memories so much more relevant.

A factor which should be taken into consideration is the direct impact of overstimulation driven by technology as a powerful tool. Here, physical entertainment should not want to mimic or enhance itself to the extent of the digital one but find its niche and evidentially thrive in doing so.

This studio will explore the nature of tribalism and the need for this to be a physical, communal experience and how these impacts on the future of Entertainment Architecture. As we experience every day, the digital realm is increasingly encroaching onto the physical one across many platforms often blurring the lines between the two or abandoning one for the other. What are the advantages or disadvantages of these worlds colliding or cohabiting?

Our studio will encourage you to question the status quo of entertainment and architecture, think out of the box and come of with new ideas about the future of Entertainment Architecture that is aware of its emotional and environmental impact.

Studio Travel Week: From New York to Las Vegas

We will embark on a journey of experience and discovery across the US that takes us to some of the epicentres of Entertainment Architecture.

The idea of this trip is to absorb, consume and react to as much entertainment and architecture as we can possibly do in a week. We will explore different scales from the urban setting of Times Square, intimate environs of the theatre at the Lincoln Centre to the mind-blowing experiences that Las Vegas has to offer. The trip will start in NYC and end in Las Vegas with a stop in Lititz Pennsylvania.

New York—Times Square & Broadway:

NY is arguably the theatre capital of America, and some may argue of the world. Deeply rooted around Broadway and Times Square for over a century, theatre has continuously evolved, redefining the art of entertainment, and often pushing technology and architecture with it. We will explore the world of theatre and engage in a conversation with Broadway director Susan Stroman about the past, present, and future of theatre. We have a backstage tour of the Lincoln Centre lined up and will endeavour to see a Broadway show in the evening.

Times Square has taken the digital medium to an urban scale that radiates distraction and information to a world-wide audience. We will explore the impact that the digital facade has on the public realm and how story telling sits at the epicentre of our human existence.

Our attention will be focused on the the relationship between the human, architectural and urban scale and how places like Times Square and Broadway oscillate between the different scales and what lessons we can learn from them.

Lititz—Lancaster, PA:

Tucked away in the rural setting of Amish country, TAIT have established themselves as the epicentre of innovative technologies for the entertainment Industry. Evolving over 40 years and embracing new challenges that we face with changing tastes in entertainment and the fast-paced technical advances. We will use this visit to examine the correlation between architecture, engineering and fabrication and see how together these will inform the future of entertainment. Tait’s Chief Creative Officer Adam Davies and founder Mickey Tait will spend time with us explaining the world of entertainment architecture through the lens of high-end fabrication and Mickey Tait will give us a tour of his Black Box Theatre and show how a single space can adapt to a multitude of different configurations.

We will focus on the relationship between technology and experience and question who leads who in our approach to imagining the future of entertainment and the architecture it houses.

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas never had much regard for the conventional and made little distinction between architecture and entertainment. The city is built to embrace the mass of people seeking pleasure on all fronts and its architecture is a signpost of the temptations and fantasy that lay within. We will explore the phenomenon of residence shows and how they fit within the space and business model of a casino. We will see a show, taken through a backstage tour as well as visit the new MSG Sphere, the world’s largest and arguably most advance digital experience. Here we will be exposed to cutting edge technology in sound and vision end examine how architecture incorporates these into the design. We will focus on how architecture becomes the medium that delivers the message and what lessons we can learn from the Las Vegas vernacular.

Project Location:

You have a choice to select a site either in NY or in LV. To narrow down the options, we suggest that you look at a site in NY that runs along Broadway between 41st Street and the Lincoln Centre on 65th street or in Las Vegas along the Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard) between the Mandalay Bay Casino in the south and Resorts World to the north. This is only a suggestion so if you think there are sites in NY or LV that better suit your ideas, you are free to do so as well. You are also free to decide between choosing an empty plot, one that requires an existing structure to be demolished or one that becomes a parasite of an existing building. It would help to have an idea of where your site may be before we embark on the travel week.

When we are in the two cities, you will have the opportunity to further explore the location you chose and start working on achieving milestones which we will devise together on our last day in LV.

Project Program:

The program can be anything that you want it to be that will help you explore the future of entertainment. You can decide to work in groups or fly solo. Your proposal can be purely analogue like a theatre, digital like a virtual event or a hybrid between the two. It can be designed as an enclosure for a series of solitary experiences or one that caters for large crowds more akin to an arena, theatre or even travelling venue and show. It needs to be innovative in the way you experience it and its content, can embrace, or reject its context and even be mobile. It can borrow into the ground or float above the land but whatever it does it needs to be aware of and better the mental, emotional, and environmental footprint it leaves behind.

By the time we start the travel week, a loose idea of what you want to propose may help to confirm that you have chosen the right site by the time we are on location and help focus on the next steps.

Some key questions and food for thought:

  1. Does the tribal experience need to be experienced physically?
  2. If so, why, and how does this manifest itself in our behaviour?
  3. What are the benefits of digital tribal experiences?
  4. How does it impact our core beliefs and shape the societies around us?
  5. Why is mental health an important factor in this discussion?
  6. Where does the responsibility lie regarding the future of entertainment and architecture?
  7. Is Edutainment the way we learn and explore and how can we provide the right context?
  8. How do we make Entertainment Architecture more environmentally sustainable?
  9. How to play an active role in designing the future of Entertainment Architecture as an individual and as a tribe?
  10. Will physical entertainment ever die?
  11. What is the goal of Entertainment Architecture?
  12. What is the ripple effect of our role as architects shaping the future?
  13. What are our responsibilities in leaving behind a better world that we can implement now?
  14. How does the digital scale differ from the physical one?
  15. What are the materials and building blocks that are required to shape the future of Entertainment Architecture?

All Semesters

Spring 2024
Advanced Design Studio: A School for Children in Ho Chi Minh City
Vo Trong Nghia, Can Vu Bui
Spring 2022
Advanced Design Studio: Inglorious Bastard
Pier Vittorio Aureli, Emily Abruzzo
Spring 2021
Advanced Design Studio: Life During Wartime, Land and Housing in NYC
Pier Vittorio Aureli, Emily Abruzzo