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Palgrave Macmillan

Modern Architecture in Theatre

The Experiments of Art et Action

ISBN 9781137368676
Publication Date November 2013
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Pivot

If the city is the theatre of urban life, how does architecture act in its many performances? This interdisciplinary book reconstructs the spatial experiments of Art et action, a theatre troupe active in 1920s Paris, that defined five distinct types of modern performance, types which mirror social institutions and events. The analysis focuses on Art et Action's designs for theatre buildings to show how the performance spaces interacted with actors and spectators according to their respective type, thus commenting on the characteristic events of urban life. For scholars of theatre, the study demonstrates the interdependence of spatial design and drama at a crucial moment in the history of contemporary performance. For architects, the work offers a model in theatre for how architecture might act in the daily drama of urban life, supporting current efforts to make our cities more vital and thus more sustainable.

Gray Read is Associate Professor of Architecture at Florida International University, USA. Her publications include Architecture as a Performing Art (edited with Marcia Feuerstein, 2013) and The Miniature and the Gigantic in Philadelphia Architecture: Essays on Designing the City to Human Scale (2007).

Introduction: Architecture as a Performing Art
1. Choral Theatre: Hearing the Voices of the Universe
2. Theatre of Space: The Festival of Seeing Others and Being Seen
3. Theatre of the Book: Artistic Display and Commentary
4. Chamber Theatre: The Spectator and Mass Media
5. University Theatre: Civic Debate
Conclusion: The Performance of a Town


"Gray Read's attentive study of the theatrical-architectural partnership of Edouard Autant and his wife, Louise Lara, uncovers a revolution waged by means of five iconic theatre designs, drawn from the original 'theatres' of the city's performative landscape. In the bright lights of Paris between the wars, Autant and Lara's Art et action advanced a boldly precise thesis: that art and life could be joined at last within an enigma of form." - Donald Kunze, Professor of Architecture and Integrative Arts, Pennsylvania State University, USA
"In this original account of the fascinating position of theatre and its roots in modern urban life developed by Autant and Lara in Paris between the two World Wars, Gray Read proposes a challenge to contemporary thinking about urban design and architecture. Read demonstrates how Art et action responds to deeper historical traditions as it seeks its roots in lived culture avoiding arbitrary formalistic tendencies." - Alberto Perez-Gomez, Bronfman Professor of Architecture, McGill University, Canada
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