The Theatre as Arcade, the Arcade as Theatre


David Hodgson, an MArch student at the University of Sheffield, has won the AJ Students Award for his design of a performing arts complex. The centerpiece of the complex is The Arcade Theatre, a space for immersive performances–meaning the audience gets involved. The project description explains, "Learning from the work of Walter Benjamin, who described the arcade as a ‘world in miniature’, the project incorporates idiosyncratic details to trigger people’s curiosity. These ‘oscillations’, as Benjamin called them, are deviations from repetitive elements such as a bright yellow arch, an exuberant light fitting and a black brick studio. The result is a rich environment full of the theatre of everyday life."

I see a lot of projects that purport to be inspired by the Arcades Project. Oftentimes these projects evince a superficial resemblance to Benjamin's writings and the historical structures which they examine. Hodgson, on the other hand, has a much deeper understanding of the Arcades Project. His stress on how structure can shape an experience gets to the heart of Benjamin's interest in the Paris Arcades.

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