Nara Convention Hall

This project exploits various aspects of theater to establish a condition for design. Both the physical structure and the activities are used to create a context for the site.

“In a theater, a thousand people cannot sit in the same seat and thus we cannot say that any two of them have seen the same play…The playwright has to take aim at his public by taking his shotgun and firing a thousand pellets at once, if he is to strike successfully a thousand views in a single blow. Film resolves this problem, since the spectator, no matter where he is in the theater, sees exactly what the camera saw. If Charlie Chaplin looks directly into the camera, his photogram will look directly at everyone in the audience, whether they are sitting to the right or the left…*

Marcel Pagnol, Confidences, as quoted in Paul Virilio, “Improbable Architecture” in Lost Dimension. Semiotext(e)


This project exploits various aspects of theater to establish a condition for design. Both the physical structure (stage, auditorium, foyer, backstage, etc.) and the activities (performance, rehearsal, spectate, etc.) are used to create a context for the site. The theater proscenium is interpreted as a compression of space into a picture plane between performance and audience. This compressed space is extracted from the theater to become a strip that runs the length of the site connecting the two main halls and organizing both the building and the plaza. This proscenium strip is treated as a vehicle for numerous and sometimes conflicting design interpretation. It operates both as a separator (in the case of the auditoriums) and as a connector (in the case of the entrance bridges). Within this strip are a series of electronic screens that establish a condition for considering the nature of the live theater by simulating the performance for the plaza. The entrance bridges feeding the convention hall are conceived as a system of urban movement. By extending beyond the site to make direct connections to the JR station plaza, the department store across the street, and the residential neighborhood, the bridges actively engage the surrounding context. To address the more intimate scale of the lower residential neighborhood west of the site, the middle part of the building is lifted to continue the space of the plaza through the site and allow direct pedestrian passage through the site.


Nara, Japan


Nara Convention Hall International Design Competition





MFA Design Team

Scott Marble, Karen Fairbanks, Andrew Berman, Zachary Hinchliffe, Michael Kudler, Daniel Niggli, Christine Wentz, James Yoon

Consulting Engineers:

Arup (Guy Nordensen, Mahadev Raman, Paula Beever)

Landscape Architects:

Quennell Rothschild Associates (Nicholas Quennell, Andrew Moore)


Competition Finalist, International Design Competition


Sub-Studio (William Massie)

CAD Modeling

GIST, Inc. (Eden Muir)


Eduard Hueber / Arch Photo, Inc