Monday, June 9, 2008

Harvard's Carpender Center gets a Puppet Theater

This has been around for some time now...but I still think it is interesting and worth posting...I am such a sucker for a puppet show.

The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the only major Le Corbusier-designed building in North America. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of this building, a crazy-looking temporary puppet theater was constructed within its sunken courtyard.

Apparently, great engineering and technical features hold this odd little theater together, but we are much more fascinated by the its appearance. The theater resembles an alien mega-crawley, some sort of an animal -- perhaps subterranean or even submarine -- that has managed to disguise itself with AstroTurf as a benign being but is in fact, a voracious, people-eating igloo. It lurks under the overhang, waiting to devour unsuspecting keeners of puppetry.

French conceptual artist Pierre Huyghe and Harvard assistant professor of architecture, Michael Meredith, collaborated on the structure using the help of computer technology and a team of GSD students. For them, metaphorical identities for the structure included an egg, a seed, a tumor, an alien spacecraft, and Le Corbusier’s brain. The structure is built with 500 white polycarbonate panels – each unique in shape -- held together by 2,000 bolts to form a rigid frame covered in real moss, not its plastic imitation.

Regardless, we think it is a live creature as emphasized by the entrance, which is a soft, flexible, mouth-like opening built so that it appears to frame a tree when viewed from the innards.

The puppet opera performance tells the story of the Carpenter Centre with Corbu himself appearing in marionette form. The performance was created by Huyghe who works with many media forms, from film to puppetry to “public interventions.” In 2002, he won the the Guggenheim Museum's biennial $100,000 Hugo Boss Prize, one of the premier juried prizes of the contemporary art world.

(text & images via: Tuija Seipell & The Coolhunter)

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