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Buildings for the Performing Arts: A Design and Development Guide.

This is an ambitious book: in one slim volume it aims to 'provide those involved in a building project - client, users, and members of the design team - with a framework to help them communicate more effectively to produce an appropriate solution to a particular problem'. Some chapters achieve this aim with ease, such as the Stages in Design & Development; Site Considerations; Support Facilities and Building Design. Other chapters have such a broad brief, particularly the early ones setting the scene of the performing arts, that they are necessarily sketchy overviews of complex subjects.

The broad range of building categories which the book attempts to cover (namely opera houses, dance theatre, concert halls, recital rooms, experimental music workshops, commercial theatre, arena, drama theatre, educational spaces, outdoor spaces, street theatre, stadia etc) result in lists rather than in-depth discussions about the design implications of each building type.

For each building category, amply-illustrated examples since 1950 are given, but without commentary as to whether they are good, bad or indifferent, nor with any cost guidance. Personally, I would have welcomed critical analysis given to help focus and define the framework for future projects.

The examples tend to be UK or Europe-based (with one example from Sydney). To only mention four North American buildings and none of the 40-odd auditoria completed recently in the Far East is a definite shortfall in a volume setting out to inform in the broadest context.

Part two of the book will be very useful and most frequently used by architects; it describes the stages of design and development, with specific studies. Again the author's aim has been to cover as much ground as possible. In describing the auditorium and platform, each art form is given a number of different arrangements but without saying what is driving the overall shape. Is it acoustics, distance from the stage, audience capacity, artistic direction? Hopefully, by the point in any project where information contained in the diagrams becomes critical, there will be theatre consultants and acousticians in the design team who can interpret the information for the particular building in hand.

This is a timely book to be read alongside every performing arts book one can find and also related articles in back issues of the AR - and as a complement to frequently attending performances and talking with people involved in the arts.
COPYRIGHT 1996 EMAP Architecture
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Minors, Anne
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1996
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