German Spectacle lights up Centennial
Published: Friday, October 19, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 19, 2012 10:10
A group of German artists called URBANSCREEN combined their love for art and architecture with Rice’s Centennial weekend’s Spectacle, a large-scale installation highlighting Rice’s history.
The Spectacle, presented in the Academic Quadrangle, attempted to showcase Rice’s 100-year history in a novel format that would inspire audiences for decades to come, according to Thorsten Bauer, creative director of URBANSCREEN.
At the very core of URBANSCREEN are three permanent members: Bauer, Art Director Max Goergen and Managing Director Manuel Engels. Bauer is an architect by trade, Goergen has a background in theater and Engels specializes in music.
The company was established in 2005 in Bremen, Germany, with eight specialized fields such as architecture, music, stage design and media-art, according to Goergen.
This project is URBANSCREEN’s debut in the United States, according to Engels. In the past, they have orchestrated a light show at Sydney Opera House to the background of a Mozart Symphony, and they put on an audiovisual staging of the Leopold Museum’s architecture during the 10th anniversary of the Museums Quartier in Vienna, Austria, said Goergen.
Bauer described the spectacle as a pictorial representation of the story of Rice.
Kathleen Boyd, Centennial director and Rice alumna, said she worked on the project for approximately three years. Boyd declined to disclose any financial information regarding the Spectacle.
“URBANSCREEN came into the scene just under a year ago and have been working on our project ever since,” Boyd said.
Whiting said that URBANSCREEN visited Rice a total of four times for student and alumni interviews.
“[URBANSCREEN] visited Rice primarily to find the student voice,” Whiting said. “They interviewed hundreds of random students from all grades, ethnicities, residential colleges and backgrounds on their Rice experience for their project. Students were not told what their responses would be used for to maintain the surprise.”
Graduate student of architecture Alex Hohman was interviewed by Bauer for his Rice experience.
“It was inspiring to see their take on an old form of media,” Hohman said. “[The group] wanted us to think about what it meant to celebrate an event; Rice’s Centennial was more than a gala, it was an appreciation of how far we came as a school and broke an architectural barrier. The Spectacle reaffirmed how important architecture is to a place.”
Rice Architecture Dean Sarah Whiting, along with Boyd, selected URBANSCREEN after an exhaustive screening project, Whiting said.
“About a year ago, we invited three firms to come in for an interview,” Boyd said. “Our committee was adamant that this event should be an artistic endeavor; it would not be a commercialized, superficial view of Rice. We were very impressed with URBANSCREEN’s works in their incorporation of the building into their art.”
Boyd and the committee produced a documentary about Rice entitled “Beyond the Hedges: Rice and the City of Houston.”
URBANSCREEN got many of their historical facts from this documentary and the research behind the documentary, Boyd said. According to Boyd, URBANSCREEN received approximately 1 terabyte of data in both audiovisual and text format to begin their project.
Brown College senior and Student Association president Sanjula Jain said that the entire program was under wraps.
“I knew the Spectacle was occurring in March, but I was not given explicit details on what it contained,” Jain said. “When I saw the first premiere showing, I was in awe and was amazed at what we could do to celebrate Rice.”
URBANSCREEN used 800 gigabytes of data of the 1 terabyte they received for the Spectacle, Boyd said. The projection gear was leased from Houston-based LD Systems, a lighting and sound production company, according to Boyd.
Boyd oversaw the setup of the equipment necessary for the Spectacle.
“Within the week, LD Systems, operated by Rice alumn[us] Rob McKinley, constructed a two-stage mask that blocked the Sallyport and set up 12 20,000-watt projectors and the surround sound system,” Boyd said.
According to Kevin Foyle, associate vice president for development, the Centennial committee wanted to preserve the Centennial celebration in some way. The committee planned to leave small lights in the academic quadrangle to highlight the buildings and pave the way for students in the night.