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Conference & Stage Expo
For the Record
Architecture’s Student Competition Builds Connections

Carl Lefko
USITT President

Student members have always played a vital role in USITT. From undergraduates through masters and doctoral candidates, they are almost a third of our individual members and are extremely visible during our Annual Conference & Stage Expo. Connecting students solidly to the professional management, design, and production worlds has always been part of our mission. We also connect students to people in other professions with whom they will interact throughout their professional lives.

Building and solidifying these multi-level connections always has been a part of USITT’s Architecture Commission. For the past several years, members of the Commission have been at work creating and enhancing the Architectural & Theatre Student Design Competition, a program whose results were visible at the 2008 Annual Conference & Stage Expo in Houston, Texas in March.

This competition, to create an “Ideal Theatre,” is a team effort in several ways. Entries must come from teams made up of at least one theater student, who serves as the client, and at least one architecture student, serving as the designer. Teams can be expanded on either side of the equation, further enlarging the conversations. The client might call in students from different areas of study, while the designer might include others, such as those studying engineering, acoustics, or building technology.

Through this collaborative design process, architecture students learn the technical and artistic requirements of designing a performance space, and theater students learn how to present their programming needs to an architect as they gain insight into the design process.

By the 2008 program deadline, international submissions had been received from Poland, Italy, Greece, Germany, and Indonesia. Organizers were encouraged by this outpouring of creativity, and since the competition allows the theatre design to reflect a country’s own cultural and theatre traditions, we look forward to even more participation from international students. These linkages allow the Student Design Competition to present alternative views of theatre design.

The awards process calls for the teams selected as finalists to attend the USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo and make team presentations to the Architectural Commission. The 2008 winner was the submission of Magnet Group from Gdansk University of Technology, Poland. Architectural student Magdalena Jurewicz’s presentation clearly showed the collaborative process that she and teammate Agata Jewstafiew went through to develop their theatre design. Having them in Houston really exemplified the intent of the competition.

Those interested in learning more about the 2009 Competition, which has a deadline of November 17 for notifying the Architecture Commission of intent to enter, should click here.

As we continue to examine our organization’s structure and refine our initiatives for USITT in the 21st Century and our next 50 years, it is important to strengthen existing bridges and look for opportunities to build new ones.

The Architecture Commission, by creating a new opportunity for collaboration, has been working to accomplish that part of our mission. By strengthening the experiential learning opportunities through a national design competition, seeking linkages through sponsorships and professional connections, Commission members are creating a bridge to students in countries far from our boundaries. They are introducing new constituencies to the wealth of opportunities available within USITT.

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