The Pedagogy of Performances. Reimagining Productions as content in the design studio.

Presented by: Clay Odom

Walter Benjamin said. “…film furthers insight into the necessities governing our lives by its use of close-ups, by its accentuation of hidden details in familiar objects, and by its exploration of commonplace milieux through the ingenious guidance of the camera; on the other hand, it manages to assure us of a vast and unsuspected field of action” This advanced interior design studio, The Phantasm and The Box, was designed to allow interior design and architecture students to develop design systems and processes which explore specific questions regarding the production of spatial, atmospheric and experiential effects within the context of a contemporary or speculative/future oriented cinema/movie theater typology. Broadly, students are asked to use design processes to explore interrelationships between space, sequence, surface, and form, and to interrogate how these processes and systematized relationships produce a range of qualitative effects. Ultimately students are asked whether these effects –such as atmosphere, experience, wonder and delight- should be seen as fundamental disciplinary territories for spatially oriented interior design and architecture practices to rigorously engage and address. The studio began by posing a set of provocations which were then pushed into the design of an installation which explored how to produce and generate effects. This project was a competition and resulted in several honorable mentions and the winning proposal which was designed and installed by the winning students. AREAS OF INTERROGATION, EXPLORATION AND INQUIRY 1. Critical engagement with the question: What is Performance? 2. Consider the relationship between fixed and motivated (both people and use as well as form and surface both dialectics implicated space and atmosphere). 3. What about notions of film and projection as both surface and geometrical explorations? 4. THE PRODUCTION OF WONDER AND DELIGHT AS FUNDAMENTAL RATHER THAN SECONDARY CONCERNS 5. PROGRAM AS HUMAN EXPERIENCE, INTERACTION AND USES (NOT A LIST OF SPACES) 6. THE TENSION BETWEEN SUBJECTIVE AND OBJECTIVE CONDITIONS, BETWEEN INDIVIDUALS AND COLLECTIVES 7. THE GENERATION OF CONTEXTS 8. USING SEQUENCES, SITUATIONS AND SECNARIOS AS DESIGN TOOLS Once this preliminary project and set of interrogations was complete, the basic project was for students to consider and design what a next generation movie theater might become. The consideration of the projects should be speculative and future focused while also engaging questions of usability and function. Students were asked to push the boundaries by looking different types of spatial and effects based experiences that can be layered into the overall movie going experience in addition to -or beyond- the theater itself. Students were asked to research/survey everything from movies themselves to the theater going experience (from the classic movie palace to drive ins to the dumb suburban box to the new generation of theaters such as the Alamo). In addition, students were asked to engage in larger theoretical questions regarding storytelling and the nature of wonder. Students rigorously outlined and considered basic design issues such as how people get into the lobby for example, spatial and experiential sequences, ticket purchasing or pickup scenarios, drinks/food etc (lounge/bar),and circulation from lobby to theater, in addition to offices, food prep, restrooms and other types of support spaces. Students considered how new formats and forms of media –including digital space- will impact the movie-going experience moving forward. Finally, students were asked to consider how the theater may support other types of cultural and community events and uses such as festivals and other types of performance. The outcomes of this studio generated new types of spatially oriented projects which signal the potential resonance of a strong disciplinary approach to an interior design studio even within a school of architecture.


  • Walter Benjamin ‘Selected Writings Vol. 3, 1935-38’.
  • Kipnis, Jeffrey. A Question of Qualities: Essays in Architecture. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013.
  • Aaron Betsky from “In Defense of Architectural Spectacle” Architect Online May 4, 2015.
  • Gernot Bohme, ‘Atmosphere as the Fundamental Concept of the New Aesthetics’, Thesis11 (No36, 1993).
  • Patrik Shumacher “Arguing for Elegance”, in Elegance. Editor: Helen Castle, Guest-edited by Ali Rahim & Hina Jamelle (Architectural Design/AD v77. issue 1. Jan/Feb 2007).