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The Seagull - an Adaptation

Design Research Project - MA Architecture, Royal College of Art, 2019

The 1917 October Revolution brought down the Tsarist system in a total and all-encompassing way. The established models of reality were replaced entirely by new hierarchies and typologies, prompting artists of the period to radically reinvent the fundamental principles of aesthetics and resulting in a myriad of new ways to produce and experience art.
My research into this period of art history, and a specific interest in Constructivist theatre set design made in the 1920's led to an experiment in historic play adaptations.
Can set design become more than mere backdrop to performance? Can we use abstract architectural forms in different compositions to communicate narrative? Using lighting and movement to express time-based qualities and transitions between scenes, the adaptation took form as a stop-frame animation film.

TheSeagull Film Stills.jpg

The cast

Details from The Seagull - an Adaptation

Drawing on the methods and the aesthetic language of the Russian Avant-garde, as well as the design theories of Adolphe Appia, I experimented with abstraction and composition.


Abstract elemental architectural forms (such as the stair, the wall and opening) became the basis of a catalogue of characterful objects.


Taking a number of objects from the catalogue and organising them in various compositions

in a way that facilitates performative action became the basis of the project. Following the hypothesis that abstract architectural form can be described by a certain character, animating the characters in a choreographed sequence enables them to portray an even more intricate spatial and emotional setting.

A catalogue of forms


(Part of) the Catalogue

Details from a catalogue of form. A collection of drawings exploring rhythmic spaces for dynamic movement.

The medium of stop-motion became a tool to explore the power of the animated set pieces to be communicative of their character. Following the initial spatially ambiguous experiments, the project took on a historic play to provide a specific narrative through which the methods of abstraction and composition can be explored.


Chekhov’s well-known drama - The Seagull, not only provided a complex emotional storyline but as it was written before the turn of the century, it was historically directed and performed within traditional means of theatrical

representation. This adaptation looks at the play through the lens of the Avant-garde.


Identifying a key story line (Konstantin’s predicament) within the drama allowed the adaptation to be a focussed and specific study. Through the selection and analysis of scenes within this story line a new story board emerged, defining specific spatial, emotional and time-based characteristics for each scene.

The Seagull, A. Chekhov, 1895

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Film Still from The Seagull - an Adaptation

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Architecture and Theatre Set Design

MA Architecture, Royal College of Art

tutors: Clara Kraft Isono, Satoshi Isono, Guan Lee

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