By Faezeh Ensafi
Theatres are traditionally very grand buildings. Their ancient Greek forms are still found in today’s theaters. The untraditional parametrical band stand / park pavilion like sized Puppet Theater designed by the collaboration between architecture Firm MOS studios and artist Pierre Huyghe in 2004, stands out differently amongst parametric projects to some extent. The visible relevant link between the formal aspects of the theater and the use of digital parametric medium throughout the project is the main purpose of this essay.
The temporary Puppet Theater seeks the purpose of celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Carpenter Center –where the theater is located at –portraying a sudden simultaneous image of the Carpenter Center by its use of materials and parametrical surface fabrication. The total convergence of the Puppet Theater is a new organ embedded inside the body of the Carpenter Center. Le Corbusier's Carpenter Center is the center for the visual arts at Harvard University, MA. Completed in 1942, it corresponds with Le Corbusier’s 5 point of architecture providing a suitable space for exhibiting art. Various aspects of the finalized form of the Puppet Theater such as the skin details with its merely shining surface on the inside and outside appear well-settled in the modern context of Le Corbusian concrete space. The parametric medium is employed throughout all the stages of design, fabrication and construction. It is due to the constraints of the site that has made this project –as small scaled as it is –a particularly valuable example of parametric architecture. Fabrication is a stage in which diamond-shaped panels are constructed; the smallest but most important adherent elements of the whole structure proposing kind of a coherent integrity. However, it is extremely crucial to acknowledge that these tiny members are neither chosen nor designed through the traditional sketch-and-design process but are emerged via algorithmic configurations in an evolutionary parametric procedure based on a number of parameters such as site limitations: four foot change in grade from street level while the theater was set in a sunken patio made inaccessible from the street by a wall, limit of independency of contact with the Carpenter Center’s structural supports or ceiling overhead which enforces the column grid of the building onto the theater’s design process as a parameter, avoidance of damage to the building thus applying pre-fabrication of the panels to be brought and reassembled on site, and finally the functional limitations: acoustic and stage lighting parameters. Looking back at these parameters, they harp on more than just functionality and formality –the two major concerns involving in architecture in modernity and postmodernity –but bring environmental-cultural effects into the design process making architecture meaningful and rational. As the theater’s architect Michael Meredith himself critiques “…the architectural field’s current use of the parametric (as being) superficial and skin- deep… lacking a larger framework of referents, narrative, history, force… (The advantage of the parametric project is not the) relentless malleability of form… but the complex… relationships that produce architecture (Meredith, Aranda Lasch and Sasaki 6-9). Architecture is primarily a cultural socio-political form, not technological determinism (From Control to Design 5)”.