Improv Theater

Architects often espouse the idea of adaptability, but they rarely give it center stage. David Serero and Elena Fernandez of Brooklyn-based Iterae Architecture do just this with their Solar Parametric Open Air Theater (SPOAT) concept. Made up of 13 units of modular bleacher seating, SPOAT is intended to expand or retract to accommodate between 75 and 500 spectators in a range of configurations. The individual sections vary in size, allowing them to telescope into one another. When pushed together they create a compact seating arrangement ideal for watching films. For live performances the modules are separated, fanning out like a hand of playing cards. Fully extended in a 180-degree arc, SPOAT recalls its source of inspiration. “We have been fascinated by ancient Greek theaters that were carved out from the existing topography,” Serero recalls. “We wanted to extend this idea to propose an artificial topography—smart and flexible to allow for all kinds of events and performances.”

Toward this end, the architects have conceived a structure that is not only flexible—the sections of the theater are made from aluminum and set on wheels so they are lightweight and easy to move—but also portable. Photovoltaic panels affixed to the backs of the modules collect sufficient solar energy to run stage lights and technical equipment, allowing SPOAT to be used in remote locations. Additionally a backstage dressing area buttresses a 33-foot retractable projection screen, beneath which water-filled storage tanks ballast the screen against wind. When the theater is moved, the tanks can be emptied and the components loaded into shipping containers.

“The focus was to create an ephemeral structure,” Serero says. “Everything fits together like stacking chairs.”

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