Theater in the Park - Blobs and Boxes (Draft) / by Anran Li

<Project in progress. Images coming after project is done.>

I've been fighting “parametricism” (1) (actually blobism) my entire life. As much as my interests have been invested in scripting, physics, geometry, visualization, data, and other discrete elements, I have never in my life made a program-based blob or warped a building using tenuously derived forces. In the last three months at MIT, however, I've been re-introduced to the world of scripting, parametricism, and form-finding through the readings of Stan Allen, Michael Meredith, Gilles Deleuze, and even our own Liam O'Brien.

The reason I am fighting blobism is because there is one thing that I am most obsessed with, more so than any discrete knowledge in the world, and that is effectiveness. It is tempting to say efficiency. Whereas the latter is performance-driven, the former expands its boundaries to create social, political, and visual impact, in addition to covering the given environmental and economic ones. The most effective typology in a city is the box. Blobs simply don't belong in grids; they belong in a natural environment just as the ordered box is a disruption in the entropy of nature. The displacement of the blob and the box outside of their contexts should be used intentionally, such as to disrupt, or to introduce urban and natural elements into foreign environments. (2)

A theatre in the park is the perfect project to begin testing this hypothesis due to their seemingly binary relationship. At a first glance, one set (boxes and theaters) speaks to the human condition, the other (blobs, parks) to its absence. Upon closer inspection, however, both theaters and parks play with the notion of blurring the line between natural and constructed. In theater, we have the theatrics of not only the play, but also the invisibility and participation of the audience in the fourth wall. In landscape, we disguise our own creations as natural and entropic, ultimately molded for our own enjoyment.

This project explores a controlled blurring of this dichotomy, as expressed in a plane that cuts across the site and connects two trails. Above this plane is the renovated landscape of the park, and below it programmed spaces for the two theaters. The surface is permeable. Pinholes, balconies, and entryways allow circulation and visual connection between the two sides. Thus, this theater in the park attracts two groups of people who are allowed to have different circulation, programs, and sights through the dual reading of the architecture.

  1. As a formal typology, as opposed to its application. We will call it blobism.
  2. A future essay: Boxes are not machines, blobs are not mimicking nature