People, places and tech take centre stage at ITEAC

Theatre architects are increasingly catering to a growing interest in unconventional performance spaces and formats. It’s an issue that will be addressed and debated at this year’s International Theatre Engineering and Architecture Conference, organised by the Association of British Theatre Technicians.

ITEAC, now in its fourth edition, will explore the theme ‘The Future of Performance Spaces – The People, The Places, The Technologies’.

Speaking exclusively to IAM, ABTT CEO Robin Townley said the purpose of the event is to identify lessons learned since the last conference in 2010, and to scope out the challenges facing the sector in the next four years.

Townley said: ‘The application of theatre engineering and architecture has become integral to the whole process of staging and presenting performance. And the traditional assumptions about where a performance can take place are being broadened.’

He continued: ‘There’s an appetite for presenting work in exciting and unusual spaces, coupled with aspirations of providing high levels of integrated audience comfort care, all alongside the support that one would expect from more established venues.’

Under the people strand of the conference, composer and technologist Tod Machover (pictured) will share his ideas on best practice in his keynote address, while Peter Van Wyk, director of design and construction at Emaar Properties, will compare cultural quarters in London and Paris with emerging districts in China and the Middle East.

Read: Electric dreams: Tod Machover on his mass collaborative symphony

‘We’re finding that the performing arts can create a unique and identifiable character for a city district or cultural quarter,’ said Townley. ‘Developers in West Kowloon, Beijing and the Middle East are looking to create similar cultural quarters as on the South Bank, but in less than a quarter of the time.’

Under the places strand, Milton Court’s John Riddell will be joined by Suan Wee Tan (the School of the Arts Singapore) to question what makes a good theatre for educational institutions and address issues regarding site flexibility.

Meanwhile Abanti Chakraborty of the Aarshi Theater Group will discuss how to reuse existing buildings and the issues surrounding conversion for site-specific performances.

Under the technologies strand, Howard Herring, president and CEO of the New World Symphony, will showcase new methods of broadcasting live performances to audiences. And lighting designer James Morse will explore the use of LED stage lighting techniques.

Townley said: ‘Technology has always run through ITEAC. At our first event in 2002, no one in the audience even had a handheld device. At this year’s event everyone will have one, and many delegates will be interested in knowing how to use it [at a show], whether that be to follow the score at an orchestral concert or to watch high-definition extreme close-up shots of opera singers during a performance.’

Townley is hopeful that the agenda will attract a broad range of industry professionals to attend ITEAC 2014, from technical directors and touring managers, to architects and figure-heads from local authorities.

ITEAC 2014 takes place at University of London’s Senate House from 8-10 June.