Nowness: Architecture in Transience
Ella Fleri Soler
This project identifies the disused 1930s Orpheum Theatre as an extension of Gzira and of its people, existing outside of a strictly defined program or purpose. By investigating narrative as a tool for architecture, the project sought to explore how Orpheum can be revived by being set into transience. A transience promoting conservation not of material but of narrative, of the people’s connections with the space and each other. Orpheum is not frozen in time but it is allowed to ‘shift’ and recreate itself, creating traceable layers, to house the multiplicity of its soul – its people, so that they can relate to it, as it was and as it is now as a “snapshot of transition”.
Who influences you graphically?
I am constantly feeding into my mental store of graphical content by say, the very projects published by this platform and many others alike, but I believe the greater influence is indirect and less conscious. It is often not a graphical source I am directly seeking but a particular feeling. I cannot pinpoint a particular influence because I tend to do things differently every time, based on this emotion recognised in the project. I am still discovering my graphical niche, so experimenting with this variety and impulsivity is currently where I find my influence.
How does the white border frame affect the images within?
The project focusses on the theatre being revived by being set into transience. Any moment or experience of the theatre is conceived as a snapshot of transition. The frame intends on capturing the fleeting moment as one would when taking a photograph. The name ‘Nowness’ came about from this idea. There is always something which you cannot quite capture in the single frame. This introduces an element of mystery to the image, a curiosity for what lies beyond the frame. The frame also allows the images to be portrayed collectively, suggestive of narrative, where the theatre is inhabited in multiple ways at one single moment. This multiplicity is what allows it to keep flowing, what allows it to exist in this state of transience.
You construct through collage, to what extent can this be enlarged to talk about the larger discourse of architectural practice?
The theme of narrative was central to this project not only in its representation but also in its conception and its development. The design process was largely based on building a narrative from the project’s surrounding built and social environment, and questioning how it can actually be the tool for the architecture. The narrative was built up from layers, and the end was never in sight. The process of collage allows the story to be told as it was conceived, with no preconceived idea of the outcome. Yet, when complete, or so to speak, it retains, hazily, the sense of depth brought about by the traceability of those layers.
I think it is exciting to think of the architectural practice as stepping into the unknown with so many potential layers at reach to build up that which we cannot yet conceive, as one does through the process of collage.
What dictated the choice of views you frame?
The founding study for the project focussed on the way people used to inhabit the space back in its heyday when it functioned as a theatre, and on the way they continued to do so after the doors were closed. Continuing along the lines of transience and transition, in contrast to an abrupt and drastic change, the views chosen are based on the interpretation of people’s past experiences in order to retain a sense of familiarity, which can react with how the theatre has been changed through the architectural proposal. In the experience of the theatre after these changes, the familiarity allows for the traceability of the shifts from what was to what is.
You talk about narrative, how could a format based on this have reinforced the project? (play/book/movie/comic etc)
Actually, reaching out to such formats was irresistible. The project intended to capture more than an architectural proposal, and so needed to communicate something very unique to the theatre and its atmosphere, past and present. Experiments with film, movie and metaphor allowed for a characterisation of the Orpheum Theatre and the creation of a more reachable narrative. This was carried out by juxtaposing footage from the site and its surroundings with scenes from Sorrentino’s “La Grande Bellezza”. The short film created as part of the project ca be watched here – https://vimeo.com/163832634
Ella is currently reading for her Master in Architectural Design at the University of Malta.