The Poetics of Materials (episodes in the cultural history of modern making)

The Spectacle Factory examines the modern history of immersive theater, entertainment, and media spaces from the standpoint of the history of architecture and design. It is concerned with how such spaces have been shaped by the interplay of cultural needs, technological possibilities, political ideology, and architectural tradition as well as innovation. Organized chronologically, the seminar begins with the first modern spectacle machine, devised by the Irishman Robert Barker: the panorama. Barker\’s \”Interesting and Novel View of the City and Castle of Edinburgh, and the Surrounding Country\” opened in 1789 to popular acclaim and, within a few years, similar panoramas were touring France, Germany, and the United States; within decades they spanned the world. From this first unit, the seminar moves on to examine Richard Wagner\’s Bayreuth Festspielhaus (1876), studied comparatively with respect to traditional and contemporary theater architecture. Subsequent units are devoted to amusement park environments (Coney Island to Disneyworld); the history of total theater projects (Poelzig, Gropius, Ciocca); the design of planetaria (from Adam Walker\’s 18th century Eidouranion to Buckminster Fuller\’s Geoscope), mass athletic stadia (Nervi, Foster, Herzog & De Meuron), and architectures for the cinema (Mitchell Mark to the present); immersive and environmental art experiments from the 60s and 70s to contemporary digital \”caves\”; the history of media rooms, interactive game worlds, and virtual worlds.The Spectacle Factory is a research seminar with week-by-week readings and assignments, and a final course project that assumes the form of a design project (or a research paper for non-GSD students).