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Demiurgic Dramaturgy : The Meta-place Theatre

Part 2 Project 2009
Matthew Ault
Manchester School of Architecture, UK
This studio thesis project is an essay in the use of computational and digital modelling techniques in a contemporary haptic and humanistic architectural design.

The Meta-place scheme for the OISTAT Quadrennial 2007 Theatre Competition provided a vehicle through which issues in the resolution and realisation of contemporary architecture were explored. The brief required the integration of architecture and performance as well as context, with careful treatment of a relationship to a body of water. The brief was elaborated to explore how proposals might engage with a socially and ecologically responsible urbanism, taking advantage of underused waterway networks in the North West of England. Three theatre vessels are deployable as a unit or separate on multiple sites along Manchester Ship Canal and beyond, supporting distributed and networked event spaces in theatre, music, televisual performances, immersive multimedia art and sound installations as well as staging recordings and broadcast of film and video pieces.

The design concept centres around the relationship between physical and fictional place and how their perception and conflation in the mind of the spectator can be affected by both the creation and modification of incidental and artificial climatic or environmental conditions. In this way, theatre typology is evolved from that of neutral, hermetic space to one which dynamically filters and modulates. The resulting differentiated spatial and environmental conditions offer potentials for interpretive inhabitation and occupation where architecture is not the container of predetermined events, but actively participates in the development and emergence of these events. The project therefore explores an elaboration of the traditional linear, discrete paradigm of architectural design that ends with construction. Instead, considering design as the fashioning of the world as dramatic composition; a demiurgic dramaturgy that permits new modes of engagement and interpretation of architectural and urban space, leading to a continual, experiential and empirical design methodology.

This is an architecture whose priority is sociological; the provision of supportive infrastructures through contemporary methodologies that are not concerned with morphological appearances but technological performances, without being technocratic.

Matthew Ault

Matt Ault`s project exploring the construction of atmosphere through the deployment of computational scripting to define and manipulate architectural technology and detail is outstandingly mature in the context of contemporary activity within a field that is dominated by the manipulation of the form rather than the behaviour or operation of buildings.
The dynamic relationship between space, time and event is embraced within a rich tapestry that absorbs the enduring phenomena of sun, wind and weather with an array of contemporary technological augmentation. This field of effects is deployed within a landscape that can modulate between passive recumbence and intense activity. The project can additionally be deployed in a range of locations and configurations utilising the canal for ocean going vessels that connects Salford with Liverpool. The development of the project included innovative and collaborative work on structural systems, the modulation of daylight and selected and peer reviewed presentations at international workshops on parametric modelling. The sensitivity and rigour with which the architectural competencies have been pursued and realised is testament to a sophisticated mind that seeks the architecture of momentum rather than matter – an architecture that is rewarding as it embraces complexity dissolving technology into mutable experiential ambience.

Colin Pugh

Mr Colin Pugh
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