Gia Wolff transforms the Tate

Gia Wolff (MArch ’08) can draw a line from her interest in “spectacle, performance, scale and experience”–which she explored in her GSD thesis project–to her winning 2013 Wheelwright Prize proposal, to her current installation in the Tate Modern’s “Up Hill Down Hall: An indoor carnival.”

Up Hill Down Hall, timed to coincide with the Notting Hill Carnival’s 50th year, explores the political, social, class and ethnic ­dimensions of the Carnival through performances and soundscapes, all situated within Wolff’s installation “Canopy” in Turbine Hall. Canopy is 5,500 feet of custom-made ropes hung above and under the bridge, from one end of the hall to the other, enhancing the processional nature of the hall and enticing the participation of the audience alongside the performers. It transforms Turbine Hall into a carnival space reminiscent of Oscar Niemeyer’s world-famous Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro.

In 2013 Wolff was the first winner of the Wheelwright Prize with her proposal for “Floating City: The Community-Based Architecture of Parade Floats.” The Prize is an update of the Arthur Wheelwright Traveling Fellowship, established in 1935 and previously available only to GSD alumni. Under Dean Mohsen Mostafavi, the GSD opened the prize to architects practicing anywhere in the world, to facilitate the increasingly fluid flow of ideas across the globe.

For Floating City, Wolff traveled to festivals around the world to study the traditions of the elaborate temporary and mobile constructions created anew annually. Her essay for the Wheelwright Prize application reads like a brief for Up Hill Down Hall: “The float transforms the city. Its scale makes exterior streets into interior rooms of street theater…. This research ties into contemporary interests in performance and architectural notions of mobility, temporality, spectacle, urban space, and community-based design.”

Learn more about Up Hill Down Hall: An indoor carnival at Tate Modern.

Learn more about the Wheelwright Prize.