Epic Theater | Option Studio

Catalonia’s parliament was suspended by Spanish government after Catalonia unilaterally declared independence last year. The recent illegal independence referendum and subsequent repression by the central government is a symptom of the failure of representative institutions: the parliamentary process, captive to the interests of lobbies and financial interests, functions as a mechanism to absorb dissent rather than as a forum for dissent.

During the 15-M movement, hundreds of citizen “parliaments” were formed all over Spain. These spontaneous social formations did not have any architectural manifestation. We believe that the physicality of a building enables social movements to acquire legibility that can thereby increase their political effectiveness. More specifically, the theater as a spatial type has the capacity to elicit specific modes of agonistic encounter.

We propose a family of theaters with double function: as a cultural institution as well as a space for enabling agonistic encounters between the private and public, individual and institution. The theaters are managed by a federation of non-governmental organizations and activist groups. Each of these groups may have conflicting agendas but are forced to share the common ground of the street.

There are four types theaters, each of which corresponds to urban morphologies in Barcelona: Eixample blocks, narrow streets of El Raval, intimate courtyards of Gracia blocks, and outdoor seating and cafe areas. The structures are attached to hot air balloons in order to move freely throughout the city.

The section of the theater becomes the section of the street. Mobile theaters aggregate to form linear theaters that occupy the entire street. This way the street itself becomes a “forum”: there is no gap between the domestic interior and the public forum, producing a moment of estrangement in which the space of politics becomes domesticated and interiorized within the street. The section of the street thus becomes a tool to recuperate agonism in public life, to reconstruct a relationship between citizens and society.