by Juan Carlos Perez

Digital Media – Miami Arts Center Enlists Techies to Enhance Design

May 01, 20042 mins
Enterprise Applications

New stages call for grand entrances. This being 2004, the people in charge of building Miami’s new Performing Arts Center (PAC) decided they should integrate digital-media technology into the art deco complex now rising in the city’s downtown to enhance the experience of patrons, boost revenue and provide tools for the artists.

Acting on this vision, PAC officials enlisted the help of the MIT Media Lab. In exchange for a $100,000 contribution from the PAC Trust to the university, the MIT Media Lab created a semester-long graduate course whose sole focus is to study how cutting-edge digital technology can be made part of the Miami arts complex. The course, described by MIT as an intensive design experience, began in February. Two professors and 15 MIT and Harvard University students from a variety of fields (architecture, design, digital media, visual and performance arts, online software and cultural policy) visited the construction site. “They took thousands of digital pictures,” says Gail Eaton, marketing director at PAC.

The students’ charter is wide?”to explore innovative models for integrating media technology into every aspect of the performing arts and public space,” according to the course description?and their canvas is big. The PAC will have a 2,480-seat hall for ballet and opera, a 2,200-seat symphony hall for classical and pop music concerts, a smaller 200-seat theater and a large open-air plaza. Its total cost is estimated at $344 million, of which $255 million is going toward construction costs.

“The idea is to challenge these creative, bright young minds to think deeply for a semester about how a performing arts center might incorporate the digital age in its design and planning,” Eaton says.

What might digital art bring to this scene? The students told The Miami Herald their early ideas included visions of a concert director conducting an orchestra remotely, while a holographic image of him is beamed at the podium where he would be standing; and the ability to download into a PDA an expanded event program. PAC officials will field these ideas and decide which ones to develop.

“We see enormous potential for education, program development and marketing,” Eaton says. “We want the audience to feel that through the technology they can become part of the creative process.”