Committing To Architectural Clarity

Leave a comment
Collage, Colour, Students, Texture

Committing To Architectural Clarity 

Matthew Zuckerman

Gasworks Theatre

Gasworks Theatre rejects the traditional division between front-of-house and back-of-house space and restructures the theatre around a shared all-of-house zone. This zone is both programmatic and symbolic, permitting greater exchange among spectators, actors, production staff and the public at large.

Spatially, this all-of-house realm occupies the charged in-between spaces among the Toronto site’s five disparate structures, three preserved nineteenth-century masonry buildings and two new facilities for theatre production. These structures distribute and restructure the functions of the theatre — from ticketing to costume maintenance and prop fabrication — such that the all-of-house zone is a place of necessary congregation and mixing.

Above, the continuity of this all-of-house world is manifest in the uninterrupted roof place that caps the site. Below, the floor of the city rolls right through the project, connecting Gasworks Theatre to the everyday performance of the city beyond.


Interview for Gasworks Theatre

Who influences you graphically?

I am inspired by graphic work that demonstrates a commitment to clarity, legibility and precision. Often, I find this work conveys a sense of richness and depth that shakes loose only gradually, yielding more and more with each passing encounter.

The photographic work of Bernd and Hilla Becher, Uta Barth and Victoria Sambunaris are constant sources of inspiration. So are the paintings of Charles Sheeler and Agnes Martin, and the wall drawings of Sol LeWitt. In a more explicitly architectural realm, I find myself turning again and again to the graphic work of Ralph Erskine and Livio Vacchini, and the built work of David Chipperfield and Willem Dudok.

What dictated the choice of views? How would further exploration of the interior of the space have helped in ‘showing’ the exchange you talk about?

The three views highlight the process of discovery by which the site’s transformation is revealed. From the street, the theatre’s new elements are concealed, tucked beneath the ridgeline of the gabled volume that runs parallel to the street. From the laneway, which runs parallel to the lot’s longest edge, one first views the thin roof plane that caps the new facility. From inside, finally, the roof becomes the project’s defining element, and grants unencumbered inhabitation of the site’s previously-outdoor interstitial spaces.

These zones now fulfill the site’s primary circulatory and mixing needs, a reversal of figure-ground that converts the site’s most undervalued spaces from hindrance to asset. This in-between all-of-house realm stretches the length of the site and, like a current, brings spectators, actors and production staff shoulder-to-shoulder.


What defined the use of colour for the views and monochromatic palette for the line drawings? 

The grayscale line drawings convey the diagrammatic clarity of the project. Several tones are used to make a series of distinctions between new and old, inside and outside, and programmed and unprogrammed space.

The rendered images employ color and texture to convey a sense of atmosphere and material. They attempt to illustrate both the richness and majesty of the site’s existing nineteenth-century masonry buildings, as well as the restrained, deferential tone of the new theatre’s calibrated interventions.


What defined the materiality of the images?

My approach to the materiality of the images, and that of the project as a whole, was a deliberately straightforward one; Gasworks Theatre courts a sense of symbiosis among the site’s new and existing elements by instituting a stark material delineation between new and old.

The historic structures are rendered in vivid reds and browns, with careful attention paid to the play of light and shadow across their corbelled surfaces. The new structures, both the masonry buildings and steel superstructure, are left intentionally abstract and dematerialized. They are rendered in muted whites and grays, and strive to complement the preserved gasworks buildings without overpowering them.


As a manifesto for connectivity how could the format of the proposal have helped instead of single drawings?

Rather than explicitly choreographing the scheme’s all-of-house exchanges, I focused on organizing the project around meaningful adjacencies among traditionally public, semi-public, and private programs. Both the small theatre and large rehearsal space are windowed spaces visible from the street, for example, while the scene and costume shops enliven the circulation route to the large theatre at the rear of the site. At the catwalk level, a number of traditionally back-of-house spaces are broadcast to the visiting public, revealing that which is customarily concealed from view.

As a next step, I am eager to explore how predictable patterns of daily and weekly use may yield a more flexible theatre in which all spaces remain in active use throughout the day.


The Open Hospice

The average American spends a year or more of old age disabled and confined to a nursing home, where aging is assessed as a medical condition and safety trumps lifestyle. Hospice care, in contrast, emphasizes quality of life and provides relief from both the symptoms and stress of a life-limiting illness. The Open Hospice is a decentralized hospice community that breaks apart the typically inward-facing typology to foster greater exchange with the surrounding public realm.


Three residential prototypes offer independent, assisted and dependent domestic environments designed for a wide range of patients and families. A hospice care center pairs six in-patient hospice apartments with a diverse collection of community resources – a café, dining room, library, clinic, meeting hall and chapel – to embed the facility within the life of the surrounding community. A pedestrian spine stretches the length of the 12-acre site, stitching together the community’s various elements and granting residents a convivial and vehicle-free public realm.


Graves College 

Graves College embraces its visibility from a nearby highway while cloistering a zone of protected retreat removed from the street. The College is conceived as a layered courtyard building in which individual studio spaces form a tightly-packed exterior and a looser stack of collective volumes wraps the interior void. Program is arranged on a gradient from individual to collective, where private studio desks give way to shared work surfaces, pin-up zones, gathering spaces and classrooms. A single, winding stair cuts perpendicularly through this spatial layering and unites the various programs within a continuous system of vertical circulation. From inside, Michael Graves College celebrates interdisciplinarity and collaboration. From outside, the College celebrates an indexical reading of individual studio production, a thick bounding wall in which every student is given representation.


Railroad Park in collaboration with Rachel Gamble.

Bridgeport will soon break ground on Barnum Station, a $146 million Metro-North station sited on the former Remington Arms factory grounds. Though Barnum Station is intended to be a boon for the struggling East End community, the city’s plan to locate the station within a sea of surface parking will do little to activate a segment of the city already burdened by great swaths of vacant industrial land.

This proposal seeks to transform Barnum Station’s 1,000 parking spots from hindrance to asset. Unlike the large, single-function parking surface proposed by the city, this scheme rethinks the parking lot as a flexible public space network. Utilizing predictable fluctuations in daily and weekly use, a variety of public programs are superimposed onto the parking lot surface to yield a flexible urban space that appeals to commuters and community members alike.

PrintPrintO:1022B - Architectural DesignShahaneMatt + Rachel18_FinalAPrintO:1022B - Architectural DesignShahaneMatt + Rachel18_FinalARailroad_Park_2O:1022B - Architectural DesignShahaneMatt + Rachel18_FinalA

Mylar Falls in collaboration with Jacqueline Hall, Paul Lorenz, Paul Rasmussen and Madison Sembler.

This site-specific installation of 144 reflective Mylar strips is located in a four-story atrium off a little-used fire stair within Charles Gwathmey’s Loria Center addition to Paul Rudolph’s Yale Art and Architecture Building. The west-facing room receives an abundance of natural light and the hanging Mylar strips, configured in a 12 x 12 grid and cantilevered within the void, send warm afternoon light bouncing up and down the space. Each Mylar strip measures 60 feet in length and stretches all the way to the floor, allowing visitors to immerse themselves within the installation’s reflective density. The closely-spaced, shimmering strips acts as both mirror and window, mixing fragments of one’s reflection with views out across the room.



Matthew Zuckerman is a third-year M.Arch I candidate at the Yale School of Architecture. He has a B.A. in Architecture from Yale College, and has worked for David Chipperfield Architects in London and Deborah Berke Partners in New York.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.