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Bartlett Design Research Folios

PerFORM

by Protoarchitecture Lab


Bartlett Design Research Folios

Project Details

Practice:

Protoarchitecture Lab

Designer:

Bob Sheil

Title:

PerFORM

Output type:

Design

Function:

Adaptive and experimental space for performance

Client:

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (RCSSD)

Location:

RCSSD, Eton Avenue, London NW3 3HY

Collaborators:

Jessica Bowles, RCSSD; Emmanuel Vercruysse, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL; Hannah Ringham and Louise Ma, SHUNT; Matthew Shaw and William Trossell, ScanLAB projects

Research assistants:

Frank Gilks, Justin Goodyer, Kaowen Ho, Ric Lipson, Thomas Pearce, Tom Svilans

Funding:

Centre for Excellence in Training for Theatre at RCSSD £20,000; HEFCE Economic Challenges Investment Fund £10,000

Key stages:

Research start date: October 2009; first public presentation: January 2011; second public presentation: September 2013


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PerFORM

Statement about the Research Content and Process

Description PerFORM is a four-year, cross-disciplinary collaboration with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and the awardwinning artists’ collective SHUNT. The research investigates the adaptable qualities of digital representation and its relationship to contemporary manufacturing in architecture and theatre production. Initial tactical drawings and prototypes led to built installations, using CNC fabrication and 3D scanning for simultaneous data capture and space production. Questions 1. How may advanced digital design representation techniques innovate forms of performance and scenography practices? 2. How can architectural design address current challenges in theatre, such as audience access and learning, sustainability and performance experimentation? 3. How may high-definition 3D scanning be explored as a ‘live’ site survey to influence scenography? 4. How can digital media and production technologies mediate performance space, and how can these technologies redefine the role of the audience as agents in a participatory form of performance space? 5. What role do materiality (reflective materials) and immateriality (digital technologies) play in this process?

1 (previous page) Aerial and modulated view of the point cloud model generated by multiple 3D scans of selected areas at

RCSSD for proposed collaborative experiments at 1:1 scale. The black circles indicate scanner positions for each capture.


Statements 5

Methods Sketches and physical models, 2D and 3D CAD models (Rhino, Grasshopper), 3D printed models including mechanical components (SLS), flip book, contextual drawings, animations, 3D scanning (Faro, Faro Scene and Point tools), CNC fabrication (laser and waterjet cutting), robotics (Universal UR10, with bespoke driver software), photography and film. Dissemination This research was presented in a major public performance at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (2013). It has been exhibited and presented in three peer-reviewed conference papers (London, Toronto, Prague), and discussed in six additional lectures.

Statement of Significance

Awarded funding by the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’s Centre for Excellence in Training for Theatre (£20,000) and the Economic Challenges Investment Fund (£10,000).


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PerFORM

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2 ‘I am here’, overall view of The Scan, as performed by SHUNT. A group of figures circle the scanner in a slow march while two individuals act out a scripted performance. 3 Design model of a mobile space for experimental performance. An array of 3D and plan views shows the stages of deployment from ‘compact’ to ‘extended’.

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Introduction 7

Introduction

PerFORM concerns the design process and representation of experimental spaces for performance in collaboration with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (RCSSD). The overarching themes of the research are: (1) design process and tooling as means to develop new forms of performance and scenography practice; (2) collaborative engagement between the disciplines of architectural design and scenography; and (3) design experimentation in hybrid technologies of representation and fabrication. The research begins with a design proposal for a mobile platform for experimental performance, involving investigations on related architectural typologies and hybrids of modelling and

scanning technologies, and continues through a series of 1:1 built installations, involving bespoke 3D scanning and modelling processes as components of live performance. The project culminates in The Scan, a collaborative performance with ScanLAB Projects and SHUNT, an award-winning artists’ collective. SHUNT created an original score for performance at RCSSD. Protoarchitecture Lab worked with ScanLAB to develop novel and bespoke instruments in response to SHUNT’s proposals and used digital technologies of capture and modelling to blur the boundaries between the represented and the actual in the subsequent performance. [fig. 1–3]


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4 Illustration representing the design of the three primary elements: a foldable platform, the deployable wings and a proposed fabric roof

PerFORM

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Aims and Objectives

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Aims and Objectives

PerFORM explores the synergy of architectural and theatrical innovation in practice, education and research. It aims to open up new associations and understandings between live performance, scenography and digital media. Based on consultations with RCSSD, the following objectives were agreed for the design of the mobile platform: —  Performance and audience areas would be accommodated on one adaptable platform with defined control points for ‘transition’ and ‘management’. —  Unit mobility would be a key requirement to involve other potential users and audiences, and provide means to activate neglected public space as an urban stage. —  As a prototype the assembly would provide a bare rig on which theatrical productions would augment its degree of completeness with props and seating. —  The prototype would act as a testing rig for innovative technical provision, such as alternative forms of lighting, sound and energy consumption. The need for visual and acoustic ‘blackout’ would be considered, but not imposed as an absolute requirement.

—  The prototype should develop as a series of ‘evolving construction acts’ at a diversity of venues. We would consider other forms of use, including commercial, private, public and community, and thereby explore other sources of revenue, application and exposure. [fig. 4 & 5] In The Scan the 3D scanning tools that were deployed in earlier stages as design aids were introduced in the actual performance as spatial mediators at 1:1 scale. Our objectives were: —  To develop interdisciplinary and collaborative means for producing a live performance and scenography that encourages interaction and participation. —  To use appropriate digital technologies to disperse and delay the performance across space and time. —  To open up new associations and understandings between building, live performance, scenography and digital media.


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PerFORM

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5 Montage of a digital model and selected still frames from animation


Aims and Objectives

The first phase consisted of a series of performance experiments in tandem with a routine 3D survey. These experiments intervened across a suite of scheduled capture positions that explored conditions such as sound, movement, materiality, dialogue, montage, ‘blind spots’, building fabric and narrative. In the second phase bespoke ‘prop-like’ instruments were installed at various positions within the RCSSD building. Each of these incorporated a 3D scanner head mounted on a bespoke armature that faced specifically orientated reflective panels. This orientation was governed to project a reflected performance in a ‘hidden/ projected’ space only viewable by the scanner and subsequently only visible through digital representation. These orientations and reflections were simulated and pre-calculated in a 3D software model prior to their design and installation, utilising a bespoke plug-in script. In the third phase, the events recorded during the second phase were re-enacted through a live performance for a public audience who were also invited to participate in scanning events throughout the building. The performance culminated in a final room where multiple broadcasts of the pre-recorded scans, new scans, CCTV footage, recorded sound and live sound were simultaneously presented in a scene that challenged the audience’s common experience of live or recorded performance. This event explored the concept of ‘reveal’ in theatre by dispersing what might be understood as the real performance across time and space. [fig. 6 & 7]

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PerFORM

Questions

Underpinning this research is a set of questions on how the impact of evolving digital technologies in representation and fabrication influence the design and making of architecture.

How may advanced digital design representation techniques innovate forms of performance and scenography practices? As the design for an experimental and adaptable performance space, PerFORM evolved through multiple drawn and modelled iterations in collaborative engagement with experts in theatrical performance and scenography at RCSSD. Key to the research process was the capability of digital tools to simulate the

6 Composite image from the point cloud model consisting of orthogonal sectional 3D oblique views of key areas of RCSSD’s premises utilised in the project

adaptive and dynamic qualities of the proposal, thereby facilitating a detailed critique of and response to the brief. In this regard, 3D animated representation became the primary means to test the proposal, not only for its property as a visual feedback mechanism, but also for its integration with design information for manufacture. The introduction of 3D scanning – as a tool to capture and analyse the design at 1:1 scale and, later, via a 3D point cloud model that incorporated the digital design model in its site context –  was particularly innovative. To our knowledge, this is the first time that such an exercise had been executed for theatrical production. [fig. 8–10]


Questions 13

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PerFORM

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7 Enactment of a ‘forensic scene’ by RCSSD researchers. This test explored how a stitched digital model encourages multiple roles to be performed by individuals. The resulting assembly generates an impossible scene whereby character alibis and misdemeanours are simultaneously evidenced.


Questions 15

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8 Analytical drawings of potential spatial organisation of a performance space built off a production road trailer


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PerFORM

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Questions 17

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9 & 10 The proposed design was marked out at 1:1 scale in rope in a public space near RCSSD. Staff, students and members of the public were invited to comment on scale and spatial organisation. Aerial view of point cloud model generated from the 3D scan of the 1:1 plan mock-up.


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PerFORM

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Questions 19

How can architectural design address current challenges in theatre, such as audience access and learning, sustainability and performance experimentation? As both a prototype design and an event design, the work is specifically framed to challenge the conventions of ‘black box’ theatre, including the relationships between auditorium, stage and backstage. Dominated by the relatively isolated peaks surrounding events, theatre is among the least successful industries in addressing issues of sustainability, energy consumption and efficiency, and waste. Many of these issues are associated with management and methods, but others are rooted in traditions; for example, the dominant use of tungsten-based stage lighting rather than more sustainable technologies such as LED. Our research is based on a critique of such enclosed performance environments that require complex control systems for ventilation, heating, lighting and acoustics. PerFORM explores an adaptable model that challenges the necessity of these requirements by offering a skeletal, mobile and more environmentally friendly infrastructure that incorporates found locations as components of the performance itself. In this regard, PerFORM is a design demonstrator for alternative sustainable standards in performance and scenography practices. [fig. 11–13]

11 Selected frames from animated 3D Rhino model illustrating all intermediary modes of deployablity, from compact to fully extended 12 Selected detailed frames from animated 3D Rhino model with key envelope connections and associated mechanisms. 3D animations are utilised as routine design tests and previews of possible conflicts between structure and skin.


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PerFORM

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Questions 21

How may high-definition 3D scanning be explored as a ‘live’ site survey to influence scenography? The Scan was specifically developed to address this question, which arose from earlier phases of the research. The response came through simultaneously integrating 3D scanning – a technology predominantly reserved for purposes of evidence verification and metrology – with an original theatrical performance and bespoke scenography. To begin, an external courtyard of RCSSD’s premises was selected as a key pivotal space from which three- to four-storey flank walls rose on three of its sides. These walls, of varied materiality and configuration, acted as boundaries to utilitarian internal circulation routes and practice rooms. The form and functionality of the territory these surrounding spaces occupied were seen as an opportunity to destabilise internal/ external relationships through hybrid scanning and time-based performance experiments. Various locations were tested for their capacity to host a live performance and simultaneously generate a projected reflection via the scanner to the external courtyard. Three locations were ultimately selected to receive specifically positioned scanning instruments; a set of reflective surfaces were installed on armatures in adjacent locations. Protoarchitecture Lab (Sheil and Vercruysse) designed and installed The Scan, including making these bespoke instruments. The event was performed by SHUNT (Ringham and Ma). ScanLAB Projects (Shaw and Trossell) supported the 3D scanning. [fig. 14 & 15]

13 Selected still frames from an early animation, illustrating the digital design model in deployed mode, merged with a 3D point cloud model of the main quadrangle at UCL as a sample location


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PerFORM

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14 The crying room scene reflected, from The Scan, as performed by SHUNT. The scanner captures the figure’s blind side through the rebound of signals from an adjacent mirror. The blind side scene is then digitally created in a parallel room.


Questions 23

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15 The crying room scene reflected in plan, from The Scan, as performed by SHUNT. This result provoked interest in developing the reflected data as a parallel performance space exclusively within a digital environment.


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PerFORM

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16 ‘The reveal’, from The Scan, as performed by SHUNT. In the final scene of the performance, an audience gathers backstage to review a dense multimedia

relay of live and pre-recorded scan data, 3D models, animations, CCTV footage, infrared footage, photography, sound recordings and dialogue.


Questions 25

How can digital media and production technologies mediate performance space, and how can these technologies redefine the role of the audience as agents in a participatory form of performance space? During the live performance of The Scan, the projection of key moments via 3D scanning and subsequent modelling allows the event to challenge perceptions of time, space and narrative sequence through a final distillation of ‘reveals’. By actively engaging the audience and performers in 3D scanning as a process related to key moments and locations, digital technology is placed in the centre of the programme. When the consequences of these moments are revealed in the final room, the ambiguity of performer and audience, and of live and recorded performance, are established. The final room also challenges the apparent order of the narrative and, as with routine functions of digital design technology, the audience’s experience of spatial ‘cut and paste’ becomes evident. In this regard, the audience members are established as agents in the performance and its understanding. [fig. 16 & 17]

What role do materiality (reflective materials) and immateriality (digital technologies) play in this process? The research interest in reflection developed in response to the scanning instrument manufacturers’ recommendation to avoid capturing shiny or reflective surfaces, as these would generate ‘noise’ or ‘dirt’ in the modelling results. This scanning technology is predominantly used for highly accurate geometric verification and measuring. By focusing on what we were advised not to do, reflection became a key tool in establishing and manipulating an additional, purely digital, performance space. In this regard, the mirrored surfaces acted as conventional reflecting surfaces for the performance and as spatial mediators in relation to scanning and modelling. [fig. 18 & 19]


17 ‘This is the summary of events’, from The Scan, as performed by SHUNT. The image illustrates a single frame from the point cloud model generated by the capture of a spoken performance lasting three minutes. The performance explored a theatrical prolongation of time. The model was later animated and overlaid with recorded dialogue. The scene became a key component of the final performance.


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PerFORM

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18 The array of frames illustrates the strategy for mounting mirrored surfaces in order for the scanner to generate digital reflections in the point cloud model. This particular array presents the strategy for the internal stairs.

Similar predictive simulations were generated for Practice Room A and the external fire escape stairs. Digital reflections from all three locations converge at high level in the model of the external courtyard.


Questions 29

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19 Images presenting various installed reflective elements and the performers’ engagement with the 3D scanner


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PerFORM

Context

The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Digital representation in theatre production

PERFORM was commissioned by the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (RCSSD), which has the UK’s largest concentration of specialists in drama, theatre and performance. RCSSD also has the broadest portfolio of drama, theatre and performance-related programmes in Europe, and no other single faculty worldwide offers such a diverse range of specialist Master’s programmes in theatre and performance practices. In 2005, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) designated the RCSSD as the UK’s Centre for Excellence in Training for Theatre (CETT), and it was through this agency that PerFORM was commissioned as a key research objective of both CETT and RCSSD.

Our collaborative work with SHUNT belongs in the context of contemporary performances that utilise new digital means of production. As with many practices, theatrical production has been revolutionised by digital technology. Organisations such as Blast Theory have successfully developed a portfolio of works that exploit the fluidity of contemporary life populated by digital media and technologies, where the audience experiences the event through devices such as phones, tablets and laptops. Our research demonstrates how theatre related to figurative performance, script, dialogue and the live presence of an audience may also engage with digital space in a way that goes beyond documentary record.

Mobile space

Reflection in architecture and performance

From an early stage, the ‘deployable’ design of PerFORM was developed as an architectural performance akin to the work of French interdisciplinary artists’ collective La Machine. The proposed travels and actions of the mobile platform of PerFORM were envisioned as both an event and a venue. In this regard, the system’s mechanical movement was developed as a choreographed unfolding of space, which in itself could be seen as a performance.

Reflection is a vast subject in architecture (e.g. Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles, 1678–1684; Sir John Soane’s House London, 1808–1837; Mies Van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, 1929) in which ideas of multiplication, borrowed light, spatial illusion and otherness are explored. As reflection became a prominent theme of this research, it opened up possibilities for ‘extending’ the performance.


Context / Methods

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Methods

Central to Sheil’s work is the engagement with new technologies in design and fabrication as both creative tools and critical agents for research. This is as much a process-driven enquiry as it is an investigation of subjects surrounding performance and technology. The project is characterised by an experimental approach to methods; techniques are altered in iterative phases, depending on the readings of previous results. As design research PerFORM evolved through the production of elementary sketches and models, CAD models (including authored plug-in scripts for 3D software, Grasshopper and Rhino),

3D printed scaled models including mechanical components (SLS), flip books, contextual drawings (Illustrator and Photoshop), animations (Adobe Premiere), 3D scanning (Faro, Faro Scene and Point tools), CNC fabrication (laser and waterjet cutting), robotics (Universal UR10, with bespoke driver software), photography and film. Central to the project are 3D scanning, 3D modelling, digital fabrication and visualisation. PerFORM emphasises the potential of these technologies to inform alternate strategies (rather than products) for theatrical performance. [fig. 20–39]

20 Pocket-sized presentation. A flip book is collaboratively developed as a tool to engage audiences and potential consultants in the project.


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PerFORM

21a


Methods 33

21b

21 Page spreads from the flip book. Movement from a sequential representation of

the project’s 3D design model is reenacted as a parallel performance in figurative movement.


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PerFORM

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22 A 3D SLS (Selective Laser Sintered) print of an early design

23 Samples of sketch models and diagrammatic drawings. Following earlier design propositions, the proposal was simplified and concentrated on a deployable structural skin.


Methods 35

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24 A 3D SLS print (1:50) and concept test of proposed deployable chassis mechanism that would be activated by the road trailer cab


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PerFORM

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25 Evolution of design proposal through iterative physical scaled models that illustrate the unfolding platform and roof emanating from a ‘compact trailer envelope’


Methods 37

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26 First test at merging the digital design model with a point cloud model of the RCSSD premises at Eton Avenue. Through this investigation, the research transitions from the design of a

mobile platform to the collaborative interactive performance The Scan.

27 Selected frames from animated fly-through generated by merging the PerFORM CAD model with a point cloud model of the RCSSD premises. The exercise helped us evaluate and verify

design propositions against accurate site data. Critical issues such as sight lines, trajectory of deployed elements and scale were assessable and measurable.


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PerFORM

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Methods 39

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28 Selected frames form one of a series of orthogonal views of an animated Rhino model, in this instance an end elevation

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29–31 Views of the design model, showing the assembly in semi-deployed mode, with roof canopy


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32 ‘I am here’, detail view from The Scan, as performed by SHUNT. The image illustrates

the degree of detail and information that is retrievable and capable of cross-referencing performance scripts.

PerFORM


Methods 41


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PerFORM

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33 (previous page) Practice Room A, housed within the uppermost roof space of RCSSD, one of the selected sites for Acts 2 and 3 of The Scan. The instrument created for this space has been developed using a Grasshopper script that calculates the generation of reflected data in relation to performance positions.

34 The Grasshopper script at work on a model generated by the site scan in Practice Room A. The script has been deployed to determine the dispersal of reflected data outside the room and the building. Performers will interact with a ‘digital’ mirror and the event will occupy an external site that hovers three storeys above ground.


Methods 45

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35 The Scan, alternative view


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PerFORM

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Methods 47

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36 PerFORM/The Scan. Top row: components of scanning instrumentation for Room A. Middle row: the appearance of reflected figures in digital model. Bottom row: components of scanning instrumentation for the stairwell.

37 PerFORM/The Scan. Composite drawing of installation array and captured data from Room A Š ScanLAB Projects


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PerFORM

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38 PerFORM/The Scan. Composite drawing of installation array and captured data from the stairwell © ScanLAB Projects


Methods 49

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39 PerFORM/The Scan. Composite drawing of installation array and captured data from the external rooftop © ScanLAB Projects


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PerFORM

Dissemination

In addition to attracting the involvement of the award-winning artists’ collaborative SHUNT, PerFORM has garnered interest from experts in theatre design and theatre production, including Jason Barnes from the National Theatre, Juliet Rufford from the Prague Quadrinalle and Hannah Smitz from Theatre de Complicite. The research and design process has been presented to diverse audiences in the following events and publications.

Public presentations ‘PerFORM’, inaugural presentation to invited experts from theatre and industry, Centre for Creative Collaboration, London (Jan 2011). ‘PerFORM/The Scan Act 1’, experimental performance events staged to test possibilities for collaborative creativity during scanning of the RCSSD building as part of a design survey, RCSSD, London (Apr 2013). ‘The Scan’ (a collaboration between Protoarchitecture Lab, RCSSD, SHUNT and ScanLAB Projects), performance and exhibition of PerFORM, Collisions Festival: New Research in Performance Practice, RCSSD, London (Sep 2013).

International symposium presentation and exhibition Bob Sheil and Jessica Bowles, ‘PerFORM: a prototype for making theatre and theatre making’, The Architecture of Affect: IFTR (International Federation of Theatre Research) Theatre Architecture Working Group Symposium, Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space, Prague (Jun 2011).

Peer reviewed conference papers Bob Sheil and Matthew Shaw, ‘Perform: a prototype for making theatre and theatre making’. Presented at the International Adaptive Architecture Conference, Building Centre, London (Mar 2011). Published as part of conference proceedings. Bob Sheil, ‘PerFORM/The Scan: experimental studies in 3D scanning and theatrical performance’. Presented at ACADIA (Annual Conference for Association for Computer-Aided Design in Architecture) 2013 conference on Adaptive Architecture, Cambridge, Ontario (Oct 2013). Published as part of conference proceedings.


Appendix 51

Related publications by the researcher(s) Conference papers pp. 50–61 Bob Sheil and Matthew Shaw, ‘Perform: a prototype for making theatre and theatre making’. Presented at the International Adaptive Architecture Conference, Building Centre, London (Mar 2011). Published as part of conference proceedings, 2–13. pp. 62–67 Bob Sheil, ‘PerFORM/The Scan: experimental studies in 3D scanning and theatrical performance’. Presented at ACADIA (Annual Conference for Association for Computer-Aided Design in Architecture) 2013 conference on Adaptive Architecture, Cambridge, Ontario (Oct 2013). Published as part of conference proceedings, 355–360.


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Bartlett Design Research Folios Founding Editor: Yeoryia Manolopoulou Editors: Yeoryia Manolopoulou, Peg Rawes, Luis Rego Content Š the author Graphic Design: objectif Typesetting: Axel Feldmann, Siaron Hughes, Alan Hayward Proofreading: Wendy Toole

PerFORM


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