A reimagined Greek agora, inspired by ancient mythology and 1960s French cinema, is one of dozens of student design projects and innovations at UNSW’s Luminocity 2016 exhibition.
Luminocity 2016 is open free to attend for all and it will be held at UNSW Built Environment, Ground Floor Gallery – Red Centre West Wing Building, UNSW Kensington.
Luminocity is the annual UNSW Built Environment event showcasing the creative works of students and alumni from all program areas, ranging from architecture and city planning to construction management and industrial design.
Lauren Rutstein is a third-year student in the Bachelor of Interior Architecture (Honours), and the recipient of the Built Environment Scholar Award.
Her design concept, Labyrinth, turned a pedestrian staircase and tunnel in The Rocks into a modern-day gathering place for people of Greek descent in Sydney, complete with a cafe, gallery space and cinema.
The agora was the central feature of ancient Greek city-states and democracy, where people gathered for artistic, athletic, spiritual and political events.
“The task was to design a modern agora,” Rutstein says of her second-year studio assignment. “We were asked to question what would be a new place for democracy in Sydney today, for those within the Greek community who were escaping the difficult economic situation in Europe.”
As part of the assignment, the students were asked to focus on ways that cinema and the notion of “kitsch” could influence architecture and design.
Rutstein says the main influence for her work was the 1963 film Contempt, directed by Jean-Luc Godard. The pioneering French-Swiss filmmaker was able to “build tension in scenes through framing, and was also able to slow down time and space” to make the viewer feel as though they were amid the experience, she says.
Her project has drawn on some of those same techniques: “The intention was to create a public space infused with a spatial narrative, creating a cathartic path reflective of the Greek community’s identity – the tension they felt, and how it led them to escape the crisis abroad.”
Rutstein’s design uses walls in various ways to segment the space, creating a labyrinth effect throughout the tunnel – a nod to the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.
The walls are designed to blur the boundaries between the public and private, as well as the political and social realms. They also serve to distort perceptions of the space’s openness, and enhance feelings of tension, she says.