Lafayette’s arts plaza is one of several architectural projects selected to represent the United States in the prestigious Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space, an international exhibition that showcases some of the world’s most creative and innovative examples of performance and theater design.
The plaza is the centerpiece of the College’s $10-million Williams Arts Campus planned for North Third Street that includes an experimental black box theater, a state-of-the-art film theater, a sound stage, a costume and scene shop, rehearsal studio, and a high-tech media and teaching lab. The campus, which is anchored by the Williams Visual Arts Building, will serve as the home for Lafayette’s theater and film and media studies programs.
Held every four years in Prague, Czech Republic, the Prague Quadrennial 2011 runs from June 16-26 and highlights artists and architects who have rejected conventional theater design and found or created alternative performance spaces. Spillman Farmer Architects of Bethlehem did just that in their design of Lafayette’s arts plaza, creating an open-air theater between two buildings on a concrete slab above the Bushkill Creek. Most recently, College Theater performed the absurdist play Ubu Roi in the arts plaza, igniting the night sky with an array of colorful lights, music, and costumes.
To construct the arts plaza, Spillman Farmer removed the front and rear walls of the existing building but left the central timber truss and steel columns to define the space. The removal of the rear wall allows for a view of the water and connects the space to the natural environment.
The arts plaza, as well as Bethlehem’s ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks, another project by Spillman Farmer, was selected for display in the Architecture National Exhibit, traditionally the most competitive section of the Prague Quadrennial. The exhibit includes work from 32 countries and represents the most recent design trends and principals of each country.
Following the Prague Quadrennial, the U.S. exhibit will return stateside for display at the 2012 Association for Performing Arts & Professionals Conference in Long Beach, Calif., and other venues.