Are you curious about the mind behind one of the most prolific designers and architects of our generation? Tony Award-winning set designer David Rockwell (in collaboration with Bruce Mau and edited by Sam Lubell) has put pen to paper in Drama, now available for pre-order and officially releasing May 12.
Inspired by an early life rooted in the theater, Rockwell has long drawn on aspects of performance to frame and enhance his built work, which ranges from hotels and restaurants, theaters and museums, to set and exhibition design, to workplaces, playgrounds and academic buildings. He aims to create a story within any space he designs, evoking a sense of performance, showmanship and above all – Drama.
“I’ve never thought about my love of theater and architecture as two separate passions,” said Rockwell. “These pursuits both spring out of the exact same desire to spark human connection, and they both can draw on the same set of principles in order to tell a cohesive story. Ultimately, both architecture and drama are defined by their intended audience: the people who inhabit and animate them – and that’s something that has never felt so true or so poignant to me as it does right now.”
Drama is a rigorous exploration of Rockwell Group’s system of ideas and methods in action, found in examples from both architecture and theater, and both inside and outside the firm. Drama explores the principles at the core of Rockwell’s method, devoting chapters to six fundamental concepts: Audience, Ensemble, Worlds, Story, Journey, and Impermanence. Each chapter demonstrates how these principles may be applied not just to theater, but to a wide range of creative disciplines.
“Audience” explores the initial seduction of the viewers, which is followed by an intimate interaction and embrace. “Ensemble” examines the resilient, collaborative power of the group and the importance of sharing expertise. “Worlds” unlocks the immersive power of creating fully-realized environments. “Story” reminds us of the power of an engaging narrative. “Journey” echoes both our winding paths in life and the visceral power of movement. “Impermanence” shows us the raw, quick-changing impact of both theater production and temporary design, which lends life and vibrance to both.
Woven through the book are a series of conversations between Rockwell and impressive figures from various creative backgrounds, these talks emphasize the value of cross-disciplinary creativity. Featured interviews include architect Daniel Libeskind, award-winning music producer and composer Quincy Jones, museum director and curator Thelma Golden, playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith, chef and humanitarian José Andrés, Oscar-winning production designer Adam Stockhausen, president of Jujamcyn Theaters Jordan Roth, and Tony Award-winning designers Peggy Eisenhauer and Natasha Katz.
Drama is Illustrated with more than 300 striking images. Each project and concept includes insightful texts, quotes by Rockwell himself, and photographs and hand-drawn sketches. This approach results in an expressive flow of ideas and visuals that create an intuitive understanding of Rockwell’s unique ethos and design process.
Projects in the book include set designs for productions of Kinky Boots, The Normal Heart, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Moxy East Village; the flagship Nobu Downtown in New York; exhibition design for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta; and the New York City arts center The Shed designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Lead Architect and Rockwell Group, Collaborating Architect.
Bruce Mau, author of MC24 (2020), helped shape Drama in his signature bold and eye-catching style. Sam Lubell, author of ten books on architecture including Life Meets Art (2020), edited the book.