As this virus hiatus makes us seek more ways to experience ‘live’ contacts, it’s a good time to reconsider a building for performance.
What are the boundaries and bonds between performers and audience, both in-person and virtual?
Should a theatre provide a ‘fixed’ environment or more flexible one, opening up possibilities for blurring boundaries between physical and virtual presence, between indoor and outdoor performance, between seated and moving audiences, between fixed and movable performance elements?
How does the theatre engage and impact its urban environment, offering access at both neighborhood and regional levels? How can the building and its exterior performance areas continuously contribute to the civic experience of park or other public outdoor space, cultural information, and public engagement?
And what physical components of the building can extend that experience?
And how might all these layers conspire to attract a broad range of cultural engagements, signaling access to people of many backgrounds and incomes and ages.
The site for the theatre will be half of the city block in New Haven that was formerly occupied by the New Haven Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum. The site engages a varied urban condition, need for local and regional access, requirements for indoor and outdoor acoustics despite its location near rail lines and highway access roads. It is of sufficient size to allow for a wide range of formal experimentation.
The studio posits full participation by all students and all teachers at each session. Typical sessions will include teacher or student presentations to the full group, individual desk crits, and weekly group pin-ups. There will be several sessions that include participation by members of the Yale School of Drama. After 2 weeks of small team research, each student will formulate a preliminary proposal for midterms and develop a fuller iteration for finals.

Issues and Objectives

  • Urban intersections
  • Performance and technical intersections
  • Content and Container
  • What is Inside and What is Outside
  • What is fixed and what is variable?
  • How to satisfy the specific and the universal of each performance
  • How does the building exert its presence and how does it disappear?

Pace of the Studio

  • Initial Research 2 weeks
    • Acoustics
    • Lines of sight for seated audience, fixed and demountable tiers, balconies, walking-around audience
    • Safety issues: flammability of materials, safe egress like length of aisles and multiple ways to exit
    • Accessibility issues both for audience and for theatrical areas
    • Live theatre vs. projections and recorded sound vs. hybrid audiences
    • Theatrical support: systems for sets, scenes, lighting, sound reinforcement, storage, delivery, workshops, dressing, actor check-in, canteen
    • Audience support: lobbies, food, art displays, books, reviews, coats, tickets, issue of total event experience
    • Outdoor performance spaces, especially transition to indoor
    • Ability to reassemble a space, both performance and audience, set-up & break-down
    • Examples like TFANA, Glyndebourne, Tanglewood, Bayreuth, Guthrie, Aalto, Noh, Boulez Space, Globe Theatre in London, Arena Stage, Hartford Stage, Westport Playhouse, Teatro Olimpico, Renaissance surgical theaters (e.g. Padua, Bologna,) Ancient Greek theaters/ouleuteria/ekklesiasteria/odia (e.g. Priene, Miletus,) Chinese opera (e.g. Zhengyici)
    • Urban issues: extend beyond the 15 minute neighborhood, parking versus other modes of access, theatres in parks, reinforcing the health of the neighborhood, daytime uses and visibilities
  • Full Scheme by Midterm 3 weeks, students will work individually
    • Define what is required at the jury in terms of drawings and models
  • Scheme with Something More Developed by Final 6 weeks, students will work individually
    • Define what is required at the jury in terms of drawings and models
    • Visual representations, should there be a required format?
    • Models, virtual and physical
    • Movie?

Potential Program Elements

Art gallery
Food selling and eating
Toilets (lots)
Coats (lots)
Places to acoustically separate late-comers
Main audience and performance area, that must include
Viewing positions at several floor levels
Consideration of seating/standing/and stage flexibility
Room for an audience of 400 and as many as 40 performers
Fly loft height over at least part of the performance area
Accommodation for different levels of lighting and ability to effect changes
Ways to control sound, video projections, lighting
Extent of possibilities for scenes, screens, and curtains
Places to put elements that have to change like props, screens, and levels
Ways for performers to join and leave the performance
Ways to accommodate live and recorded music
A way to extend the performance to the exterior for an audience of 200
Deliveries and movement of goods of varying dimensions and cost preciousness
Places for workers and performers to enter
Places to change clothing and make-up
Toilets for performers
Places to store other performance scenic elements, props, costumes, and technology
Mechanical plant with attention to acoustical isolation of substantial cooling machinery
Workshops to produce scenic elements and costumes
Classrooms/practice rooms

How can arrival, related activities such as eating, book-sharing, places for learning and practice, places for viewing other forms of art as part of one’s visit, ways to engage the public in viewing the process of theatrical production, and for working in the production of theatrical elements?

Topics for Discussion

Concept of terroir
Can this be applied specifically in architecture?
Orientation, light, response to history of site, response to context, embodiment of cultural attitudes, specific spatial sequence

‘Along with wine, cheese is the most direct expression of terroir, the concept that a product takes on certain attributes of the climate, soil, weather, and terrain where it is produced. And those attributes make a certain cheese, or other product, distinct from any others. I was leading a wine tasting with a sommelier friend and when someone asked him if terroir was a bunch of bullsh*t, he reacted as if his soul had been yanked out and crushed. In America, we do have the concept of terroir, but it’s not identified the same way as it is in France. If you don’t believe me, try a California chardonnay alongside one that was produced in France, and taste the difference. When it comes to French cheeses, as far as I’m concerned they have never been—and will never be—successfully duplicated anywhere else, although there are a lot of great cheeses made elsewhere in the world. Be aware that such popular cheeses as Brie and Camembert sold elsewhere (and even in France) aren’t always the real deal. Those names were never trademarked, so unless it’s labeled as Brie de Meaux or Camembert de Normandie, it’s not the same as the authentic cheese with its geographic appellation in the name.’ David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen


The Empty Space, Peter Brook
Theater Planning, Gene Leitermann
Theater Design, George Izenour
Building Type Basics for Performing Arts Facilities, Hugh Hardy
Theatre Buildings, A Design Guide, Judith Strong, ed.
A History of Building Types, Nikolaus Pevsner, Chapter 6, Theatres
Roofed Theaters of Classical Antiquity, George Izenour
Buildings for Music, Michael Forsyth
The Architecture of Sound, Peter Lord and Duncan Templeton
In Free Fall, Hito Steyerl, should a theatre be able to alter the horizontal perspective?
Detail 3.2018, Theatre Structures

All Semesters

Spring 2020
Advanced Design Studio: A Center for Victims of Domestic Violence in New Haven
Turner Brooks, Jonathan Toews
Spring 2019
Advanced Design Studio
Anna Dyson, Chris Sharples, Naomi Keena