Architecture as Stage, Choreographer and Performer

Proposed master plan
Cross sections through building + site; Summer (top), Winter (bottom)
Site analysis: pedestrian/vehicular zones, movement/pauses
Proposed master plan massing model
Main floor plan
View of neighborhood from park
Longitudinal building section
Wonder inducing device study: Theatre Optique
Architectonic building section & sectional models
Roof/wall design inspired by folds/pleats of fabric
Exploded axonometric with different views of the city
Movement analysis of Bharatanatyam dance performance (Tortoise and the Hare)

Primary Author

  • Sakshi Misra


  • University of Manitoba


  • Lisa Landrum (Associate Professor - Thesis Advisor)


  • Carlos Rueda


Architecture holds the immense power to initiate and direct movement, behavior and emotions. History and culture used to be embedded in the architecture and be curated over time, creating a rich and everlasting effect we can feel even today. Our interactions with our surroundings generate reactions within our body (mental, emotional and physical) which shape us constantly. So how can we anticipate these reactions and create an architecture which allows them to be unfold without a sense of imposition? Today, we are sometimes better connected to the global context than to our immediate surroundings, leading to a strong sense of displacement. Technology allows us to be present in multiple places at once; so how can architecture help increase our awareness of the local context and situate us in a place and time, thus creating a strong “sense” of place? What gives a place its essence? The role of architecture has often been reduced to that of an object to be looked at, not to be identified or engaged with. How can architecture please and engage us not just visually, but also physically and spiritually? The concept of space and time has been redefined, and it would be unwise, and perhaps impossible, to go back to what it used to be. But how can we use current practices and methods to continue advancing forward, and also recapture what has been lost?

Project Statement

Your thesis topic should have (at least) two facets: subjects that fascinate you, and problems that concern you. Articulating a multi-faceted topic of interest, however, is not enough. Your Design Thesis Proposal must further describe particular conditions, programs, sites and/or phenomena you intend to study (“the what”); exploratory strategies and manners of working by which you intend to investigate the topic (“the how”); and relevant architectural, theoretical, practical, creative and cultural contexts to which your work meaningfully relates (“the why”). In an era of instant information, when everything seems to be explained away, is it still possible to genuinely wonder about the world, about shared human conditions, and about architecture? This studio similarly seeks to discover profound surprises in seemingly simple events, settings and phenomena, manifesting poetic architecture from the prosaic fabric of daily life. This studio invites students to genuinely wonder: about architecture; about the architecture of the human and extra-human world, about life in all its manifestations (strange and familiar); and about the ways in which architecture can meaningfully deepen, heighten and extend our lived engagement with the world and with one another. Students will be encouraged to explore all varieties of imagination: material imagination, social imagination, historical imagination, kinetic imagination, sensual and perceptual imagination, memory, anxiety, desire, humor, anticipation, etc. Students will seriously play with phantasmagorical effects and experiences, and experimental modes and mediums of investigation, while developing comprehensive design projects that aim to cultivate worldly wonder.

Project Description

Architecture’s physical layout, together with its qualities of material, light and sound, directly influence how we enter, occupy and move through spaces. Yet buildings are commonly seen as static objects, and little thought is given to how they perform. What if design focused on how architecture acts, even without moving—on how architecture participates in thousands of events every day by framing our activities? Using classical Indian dance as a guide, my thesis intensifies the performative relationship between body and space by designing a multi-cultural dance school in Winnipeg’s Exchange District. Classical dance forms of India are rooted in tradition, having been used for centuries to practice religion, to tell stories, to teach, and to entice. Every gesture—from fingertip to toe—embodies meaning. And multiple meanings are conveyed through the specific ways gestures are performed. Just as classical Indian dance communicates character, narrative and emotion through subtleties of bodily expression, my dance school creates spaces for learning, rehearsing, and performing by engaging subtleties of architectural form. The skin of the building, for instance, acts like a costume, concealing, revealing and embellishing activities within, so the event of entering from the street, climbing stairs, or pausing at an upper landing become special performances. Like an ensemble performer, architecture must act together with its context, sometimes even receding to the background for civic events to unfold. By re-envisioning the urban context surrounding the dance school as a stage, my thesis aims to activate architecture’s role in the dance of civic life.

Proposed master plan