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December 8, 2016



An architect designs for his world just as much as a set designer designs for their world. Chris Cortner, a fourth-year architecture student, shows us how our architectural lessons may carry through to other disciplines as he extends his design talent into the world within another world: the theater. As Chris shows us, both set design and architecture encompass the invention of another world for an audience; they both exists in order to enable ideas to become a reality and to communicate an experience that highlights the human senses. The notion that architecture can engage with another discipline proves that the primitive skills of design focus on creative problem solving and tackling challenges that span across innumerable disciplines.


In order to gauge this relationship between architecture and theater, I posed Chris a few questions:


How does architecture relate to theater?

The concept of design joins them together. I have had professors who are into [more theatrical approaches, such as] installation architecture or parametric ideas as opposed to developing a building.


I asked Chris to elaborate on the concepts of parametric design and installation architecture:

They involve creating amazing surfaces or conditions that are not literal architecture. Installation architecture represents an interactive and spatially complex space, while parametric design focuses on developing dynamic patterns. These strategies introduce conceptual designs that teach architects to be inventive, critical of their design, and dynamic in their talents.


The lesson here is not to let a conventional idea about architecture restrain your creative autonomy. Allow your design spirit to work in tandem with another element, and another way of thinking.  


Finally, I questioned Chris more generally if he thought it was important for architects to explore beyond an architecture program:

Yes. My professor Robin Drips told me that it is important for architecture students to break away from the profession to help solidify themselves as designers and to understand the world they are designing for.


Until recently, I deemed architecture as a one-dimensional discipline. Today, I understand that it is omnipresent, constantly evolving and diffusing into every realm occupied by human invention. It seems that whatever discipline is explored - architecture or set design - they are held together by one common thread – design theory. As stated by renowned architectural critic, Paul Goldberger in his book Why Architecture Matters: “Nothing else, you could say, is about everything.” Chris’s involvements with theater proves that architecture does span across multiple disciplines. Chris has been able to use his design skills to create a composition that shapes the environment to suit a specific essence, character, scene, motif, or emotion conveyed through a theatrical production. Now the question is, how can you use your design capacities?


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