The Urban Theater

The Urban Theater Gordon Kipping with Maria Stefanidis Urban public space is idealized in the public square. Typically bounded by buildings that possess some civic distinction and focused on a monument to a person or event often forgotten, the public square is an urban theater where the collective will of a population has been expressed or imposed. While some remain barren and others are bustling, they come to life when they are the sites of displays of power or pride, unity or discontent. With the continued relevance of urban public space to our everyday, a virtual public space has emerged. Facilitated by the proliferation of electronic information technologies and the popularity of online social networks, virtual public space is taking an increasingly larger role in our lives. In addition to voice calling, SMS messaging and email which have all facilitated direct one-on-one communication between people, Facebook, myspace, YouTube, Second Life, Twitter and others have enabled the establishment of communities without the necessity of physical proximity. The intersection of urban public space and virtual public space has neither been sufficiently investigated nor exploited. Virtual public space puts no demand on one???s location unlike urban public space, however, there exists a potential to enhance the expression of the collective will by enabling the formation of yet another form of community at the intersection of these realms. With this, the studio will investigate to what extent a design for both of these public realms can build on or enhance the experience in each? In the first phase of the studio, each student will develop an information flow diagram which describes communication within a specific community. The organization of existing online social networking sites can be used as a starting point for the diagrams. The diagrams in turn will be developed into functioning devices in pure or analog form using components such as display devices (monitors), scanning devices (cameras) and processors (personal computers). The desktop-scaled prototypical device will be constructed and together with the diagram presented to a jury at midterm. The second phase of the studio will involve the design of a project for urban and virtual public space. The diagram and prototypical device will be reconsidered in scale and operation for adaptation to the program of a performance space. This translation for urban and virtual public space is to build on or enhance the experience in each through the development of an apparatus for the performance of urban theater. Each student will select a site on the Lower East Side of Manhattan on city owned land in the zone straddling the proposed East River Park and the directly adjacent high-density housing. Sites of energy generation and transportation infrastructure as well as vacant land and parking lots are all possible sites for the project. Designs will be represented with diagrams and renderings and still camera video montages of the apparatus in performance. This will be presented to a jury at the final review. The studio will meet on Thursday and Friday afternoons throughout the semester. Gordon Kipping will be in attendance on both days and Maria Stefanidis will attend Friday\’s meeting. The studio will travel to New York City on two occasions as a group and desk space will be provided in the G TECTS office throughout the semester for those able to spend more time in New York.