June 2015

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June 2015

News & Notices

American Seating Sponsors 2016 Student Architecture Contest

Janet Gramza Communications Associate

American Seating will again sponsor the USITT Architecture & Theatre Student Design Competition in 2016, and students or recent graduates are encouraged to form teams to apply this fall.

Michigan-based American Seating company will underwrite the competition, which challenges architecture and theatre students to work together to design a theatre for their college or university.

This will be the fourth time American Seating has sponsored the competition. In 2014, USITT changed it from an annual to a biennial contest to give students more time to prepare. The 2016 contest brief is available here. Teams must apply by December 7 and submit designs by January.

Rose Steele of Landry & Bogan Theatre Consultants in Mountain View, California, is overseeing the contest. She said students will be asked to design a 400- to 600-seat venue with a list of support spaces that must be included. It can be a new building, re-use of an existing building, or an extensive remodel of an existing theatre, she said.

“This competition exposes architects to the functioning of a performing arts building and gives theatre students a look into what goes into creating one,” she said. “It’s the difference between production of a play, opera, or dance, and creating the environment that houses it.”

A professional jury will select three teams to win $1,000 awards and present their designs at the 2016 Annual Conference & Stage Expo in Salt Lake City March 16 to 19. The team selected for the top award at the Conference will get $500 more and formal recognition for their school.

Teams generally consist of two or more architecture students or recent graduates, and one or more theatre students to serve as “client” and assist with defining the programming needs that will shape the space. The architecture students serve as the firm that’s designing the space.

“Theatres are three-dimensional puzzles, and their primary spaces stretch vertically among several floor planes,” Ms. Steele said. “They are not flat levels stacked on top of each other like the majority of buildings. Architects find them irresistible, but often have little understanding of what actually goes on inside; for instance, ‘What are those expensive catwalks for and why do we need them?’

“And of course, they are very public spaces that are in use by the general public on a daily basis – another entirely different constituency that must be served,” Ms. Steele concluded.

Previous teams have come from all over the world and considered the competition a valuable experience. American Seating, a leader in theatre seating, said it's proud to sponsor the student competition.

"As a theatre supporter and supplier, we see the importance in being part of a community, state, or even nationally recognized theatre or performing arts center," said American Seating Marketing Coordinator Sean TenBrink. "Historically speaking, American Seating is no stranger to theatre design, with installations dating as far back as 1893. It gives us great joy knowing that we can have an influence on theatre design in the years to come."

Prospective teams may direct any questions to Ms. Steele at rose@landb.com or contact Shannan Hoerger, shannan@usitt.org.