2022 Architecture Commission Meeting held at The Martha Cohen Theatre, Calgary, August 12

Sep 13, 2022


The following participated in the meeting:

OISTAT Head Quarters:
Chenshin    OISTAT Taiwan    

Members and Guests:
Kate Burnett    UK    
Chien Ming Chao    Taiwan    
Eason Chao        
Vanessa Chao       
Chih-Feng Chen    Taiwan    
Hsin-I Chen    Taiwan    
Kuei-Feng Cheng        
Greg Cook    USA    
Joshua Dachs    USA    
Tim Foster    UK    
Karolina Garronova       
Joe Henning     
Gerry van Hezewyk      
Jennifer Ivy    USA    
Wes Jenkins    Canada    
Pu Lin    Taiwan    
Steve O’Brien    UK    
Scott Reid    Canada    
Peter Ruthven Hall    UK (vice-chair)   
Richard K Schick    USA  
Jewel Karylie Valera       
Chen-Shin Weng    Taiwan   
Kathryn Weng       
Yu-Ching Weng    Taiwan    
Maaike Westinga    Netherlands (chair)    

These contact details will be added to the OISTAT circulation list for the Architecture Commission. Anyone wishing to be added to this list or to update their details can email OISTAT HQ with a request. 


2.1    We met in Calgary, Alberta, Canada to participate in OISTAT activities associated with World Stage Design and with the Theatre Architecture Competition (TAC).
2.2    World Stage Design had been postponed from 2021 and yet Covid restrictions continued to present difficulties not least by offering uncertainty of travelling. Attendances were understandably down on those anticipated but all who attended had a good experience.
2.3    The formal meeting of the Architecture Commission was held at the Martha Cohen Theatre within the Arts Commons complex which includes the Max Bell Theatre and the Jack Singer Concert Hall. A tour of the building had been arranged prior to the meeting and presentation.

TAC Jury report will soon be published on the website.
WSD Catalogue is available at 125CAD from the University of Alberta On-line Bookshop: www.calgarybookstore.ca

2.4    Iain Mackintosh in Conversation with Tim Foster

Iain Mackintosh is the designer of the Cottesloe Theatre at the National Theatre in London of 1976-7 and of the Martha Cohen Theatre in which we were sitting. He is author of Actor, Architecture and Audience (1983) and Theatres 1920-2020, finding the fun in functionalism (2022).

His starting point was 1573 and the Inigo Jones sketch for the Cockpit-at-Court Theatre in Drury Lane, London. The 400th anniversary led to an exhibition of this and other early theatre drawings. The 1618 drawing of the Cockpit-at-Court was later confirmed to be from 1660 and by John Webb. But the concept led to the design of contemporary apsidal courtyard theatres:

1819 - Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, UK
1984 - Martha Cohen Theatre, Calgary, Canada
1989 - Westminster School, Connecticut, USA
2000 - Quays Theatre at the Lowry in Salford, UK
2000 - Vanbrugh Theatre at RADA, London, UK
2014 - Wannamaker Theatre at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, UK

He drew our attention to a few key factors:

-    Iain favours modular flexibility where humans can manually adapt a space in an infinite number of variations rather than prescriptive flexibility where limited pre-set options are defined my mechanical means. Of course, the manual option takes more time but is more responsive to changing fashions of theatre-making.

-    A small Georgian theatre needs to be densely packed
-    Bench seating helps getting to know the person beside you; arm rests prevent you from talking to your neighbour.

Ticket Price Ratio
-    The rebuilt Glyndebourne added 350 more seats to reach 1300
-    Opened with a 1:12 price ratio which it has maintained ever since; the side seats help with this ratio as they are priced at an appropriate rate for their limited sightlines.

Scott Reid
Scott is the designer for around 100 productions over 28 years at Martha Cohen, including Angels in America.

1.    Intimacy – Martha Cohen is a compact playhouse; mics are not necessary
2.    Flexibility – mainly between end stage and thrust stage, though it takes 3 days to effect a change
Cabaret format is also popular with a levelled recess to the stalls.

When questioned he thought an architectural proscenium would be tricky because it would affect sightlines into the ‘golden triangle’ on stage; the side seats restrict what can be seen in the deep corners of the stage. Scenic prosceniums have been added.

A trap in the thrust area would be beneficial

There is a fire curtain and a deluge system that interrupts scenic continuity

The ‘Georgian’ entrances downstage of the fire curtain line are not used.

Joshua Dachs
Introduced observations for the refurbishment programme:
-    Too many stairs
-    Too few toilets, often on a different level from the bars/foyers
-    No singular ‘front door’ which reduced the identity of the building
-    The corner bank buildings reduce impact/identity
-    Lack of connection with Olympic Plaza opposite
-    Bridge links and internal pathways through downtown buildings cut into useable area, especially in the foyers
-    Need to use techniques for reinvigorating libraries to do same for arts centra

Gerry van Hezewyk added that he linear lobby (foyer) is a route that separates shared activities when it should connect them.

Tim Foster asked if side seats are thought to be good or bad. These are so important to the atmosphere of the room offering relatable scale of the performer to the room. The side seats come into their own in thrust mode but cause sightline problems in end stage.

Recording available here: https://www.oistat.org/commissions_detail.php?id=1131&mode=Architecture&smode=&Page=1

2.5    Subsequent Theatre Visits

The initial tour had to be cancelled because of low take up but a smaller group of 6 managed a self-drive tour along similar lines, including:

Calgary Arts Commons: Martha Cohen Theatre, Max Bell Theatre and Engineered Air Theatre (Jack Singer Concert Hall was not available); Calgary Decidedly Jazz Danceworks; Calgary Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium; Banff Centre: Jenny Belzberg Theatre, Margaret Greenham Theatre and Shaw Amphitheatre; Edmonton McEwan University Allard Hall: Triffo Theatre, Betty Andrews Recital Hall and Black Box Theatre; Edmonton Citadel Theatre: Shoctor Theatre, MacLab Theatre, Rice Theatre, Zeidler Hall and Tucker Amphitheatre; Camrose Jeanne and Peter Loughead Arts Centre. The road trip through the Canadian Rockies included stops at Bow and Chephren Lakes, Nigel Pass and Athabasca Glacier and Falls en route to Jasper and Edmonton.


3.1    Next on-line AC Meeting
Friday, 14 October 2022 15.00 - 17.00 (Amsterdam Time)
Content: t.b.d. (suggestions are welcome)

At this meeting we will discuss future projects: activities, communication, division of responsibilities, etc. There are topics to talk about a more seriously. So it’s important that we have a good attendance to guide our future. An agenda will be available in advance.
-    10-12 October is the symposium of the Tbilisi Biennale of Stage Design.
(Biennale is from 8-29 October)
Online sessions will be held between and 11:00 and 15:00 Tbilisi time.
We are waiting for more details.

-    26 – 29 October SENA is organized in Rabat, Morocco.
Online presentations on 26, 27 or 28 October, between 12.30 and 14.00.
On Saturday 29th a tour is being organized; a program will follow.

3.2    PQ 2023
8-18 June 2023
AC is in contact with Andrew Filmer, curator for the Space Design Exhibition. We are invited to fill in 2 half-days with a workshop, panel discussion, etc. We have already had a Zoom meeting with Andrew, and a new one is planned to share our ideas. We need interested people who would like to help organize this.

3.3    22-23 June 2023
ABTT Theatre Show, London
ITEAC (London) Conference 2022 has been moved to 2023, and the annual trade show and seminar series will be run by the ABTT for those who still wish to meet at this occasion.

3.4    WSD 2025
Next WSD will be held in 2025 at Sharsjah Performing Arts Academy (SPAA), United Arab Emirates.

The Architecture Commission needs to make plans for future activities and meetings. AC aims to meet at least once a year to provide an opportunity for anyone with an interest in theatre buildings to meet, to visit theatre buildings and to hold meetings and seminars with local practitioners. Besides that, we’re getting more and more used to the digital ways of meeting, so a few digital meetings each year will certainly be added to the program.

Suggestions to increase participation are always welcomed so please assist by raising the profile of the AC in your own country. AC activities are open to anyone with an interest in theatre buildings.

Notes compiled by Peter Ruthven Hall with Maaike Westinga