literature Narrative skills in theater

People substitute themselves into the drama world and gain emotional experience when empathizing with the role,
which is an important embodiment of one’s sociality.
A good theater should be able to create an atmosphere that can stimulate personal empathy.


The campus theater design project was the fourth-year studio project at South China University of Technology’s School of Architecture. Our professor requested us to choose a stage play or drama as a spatial reference, and integrate the concept of the play into our theater design. Coincidentally, on the day of our project proposal, it was the 130th anniversary of the birth of Agatha Christie, one of the most renowned detective novel writer. As a fan of Agatha Christie, I selected “And Then There Were None” as the theme for the theater. In the name of design, I thoroughly studied the Chinese translation, the original English version, the BBC television adaptation, radio drama, stage play, and film adaptations of “And Then There Were None.”

The core of this design concept is to translate several notable writing skills used by Agatha Christie in “And Then There Were None” into architectural elements. These skills include the Stormy Weather Estate pattern and the nursery rhyme hints. The aim is to create a theater that exudes a sense of mystery and suspense, allowing the immersive experience of the audience during the play to extend throughout the entire building and even the surrounding area. Ultimately, with trees symbolizing the sea, stones representing islands, narrow paths as solitary boats, and dim lighting resembling the storm, a “Stormy Weather Estate” filled with intrigue is constructed in the midst of a bustling city.

In the design process, I not only followed Agatha Christie’s arrangement of exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution but also experimented with creating tension through the repetitive use of sharp angles reminiscent of nursery rhymes. A forested pathway leading from the front plaza to the theater represents the “journey across the sea” and hints at danger. The “ferryman,” represented by a standalone ticket booth, is positioned at the intersection of the pathway and the plaza. Strategic lighting guides people from the plaza towards the entrance of the pathway. After experiencing the narrative arc within the building, the audience exits the site through an outdoor theater located behind the structure, ensuring that this “journey across the sea” remains a one-way route. Through such spatial sequences, the architectural style of the theater is constructed.

Site

The site is located on the hillside in the southeast corner of the campus, close to the prosperous urban road. Buildings of campus public life are distributed at the east and the west, and two historical buildings located at the south and the north side. The site is just at the intersection of the campus life axis and the campus history axis.

The site is affected by the noise of campus life and urban traffic, so it is necessary to create a relatively isolated environment to enjoy the drama. The woods ensure the isolation of the surrounding environment and create an isolated island atmosphere.

The entrance of the site and building guide the emotions of visitors from the real impetuous urban rhythm to the “unreal world” of drama. The three entrance correspond to three kinds of visitors and three kinds of relations with the forest surrounding.

Below the forest: The main entrance provides the audience with a tortuous and dramatic spatial sequence because of the sight occlusion caused by trees and brick walls;

In the forest: The informal entrance is a more relaxing entrance which leads to the cafe. It is mainly provided to visitors and disabled people.

Above the forest: The exit of the theater is an outdoor theater close to the dormitory. It can also be an entrance for students who are familiar to the theater.

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