Academic Spotlight
Faculty Research, Performance and Exhibitions

Students to Transform Quad into Whimsical Procession Ground

Story posted March 13, 2008


Students in Wiebke Theodore's Architecture II class have spent the first half of the semester designing an inventive assortment of "ephemeral" architectural pieces, Renaissance-inspired structures intended to be experiential and temporary—appearing and disappearing within hours of Bowdoin's own Renaissance-inspired wedding procession on May 2, 2008.

The 1:30 p.m. processional is part of the co-curricular activities associated with the exhibition Beauty and Duty: The Art and Business of Renaissance Marriage.

The students were challenged to create the structures around which the processional will take place, with the entire Quad as their drawing board.

"It is an unusual design problem," says Theodore, displaying the drawings and 16-scale model of the Quad and campus buildings the students built as part of the planning process. A focal piece of the campus transformation will be a triumphal arch, erected in front of the Bowdoin Chapel, which they all had a hand in designing.

Arch drawing
Drawing for a triumphal arch by Devon Layne '09.

"They're interpreting works of Renaissance art, designing something ephemeral that is for a celebration. Yet it needs to be meaningful for learning about the design process," notes Theodore, adding, "It's not just a 'look.' Students have to analyze the site, look at materials and how it can be built. They're even thinking about ways those materials can be recycled. It's unusual to dovetail that with a show at the Museum. I think students will feel very connected with the work in the show when it opens."

Reflection in window
The students' designs are on display at the Visual Arts Center gallery through March 21, 2008.

Each student has designed a unique obelisk, which will be placed at a site around the Quad, demarking a point in the processional route. For inspiration, students reviewed paintings selected by Associate Professor of Art History Susan Wegner and studied designs by Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio in order to come up with a modern response for the campus.

All obelisks are based around a core structure that includes a two-foot square base and ten-foot height limit. The similarities end there. One obelisk echoes a spire from atop Hubbard Hall. Another is composed of giant aluminum tomato cans. Some include fantastic interpretations of nature, such as giant palm plumes (the student termed it a 'palmelisk') and sculptural leaves. Another has suspended ribbons, fortified with wire, to resemble the motion of falling water.

"This is a good 'winter blues' project, because it was fun," says Theodore. "We wanted to get people excited about everything connected with this event."

"I think students will feel very connected with the work in the show when it opens," says Theodore.

Architecture II isn't the only class involved in the Renaissance processional. Students from Michael Schiff-Verre's Stagecraft class will turn the designs for ephemeral architecture into tangible objects, while several students from Nina Pleasants' Acting Shakespeare class will assume the roles of the Renaissance bride and groom in an adaptation of Claudio and Hero's wedding scene from Much Ado About Nothing.

"We have tried to create programming for students that is a 21st century response to, not an historic reenactment of, the Renaissance," notes exhibition organizer Wegner. "It's very much in the spirit of Renaissance poets, painters and philosophers, who responded to the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome and reshaped them in light of their own world." Read more about the exhibition.

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