How an Academic Lecturer became a Talk Show Host on Zoom

We are building new sites of cultural production on Zoom, do we want it or not. How will it change the architecture after we go back to physical spaces, wonders Vésma K. McQuillan, professor and talk show host.

SCIENCE COMMUNICATION: Talk Show on Design and Architecture

Vésma K. McQuillan is hosting the Trentini Talk Show, the first talk show for architects on ZOOM.
Vésma K. McQuillan (large picture) is hosting the Trentini Talk Show, the first talk show for architects on ZOOM.

“Episode 5 of Trentini Talk Show will look into the future of retail architecture, the domain that will be the most affected by COVID19. We already understand that some typologies are not going to survive the retail crisis, which we have entered with the international lockdowns.”

At the end of 2019, the research group ArchCommLAb, that I’m chairing, delivered a book manuscript on retail architecture Fashion Spaces/ a Theoretical View to Dutch publisher Frame. In the forthcoming book, we examine how retail architecture is evolving from being brandscapes to becoming fashion spaces.

We suggested that the separation between brandscapes, where the spatial production is closely linked to the brand, and fashion spaces, which can be considered as autonomous and sustainable, lies in the fact that brands might lose control over results (McQuillan, Hansen, 2020). It is important to note that we look at fashion not just as a study of dress, adornment and clothing, but as a broader phenomenon of social change.

The release of the book was scheduled for May 28, 2020. Before the book launch came the date February 26, 2020, when the first coronavirus case was registered in Norway and March 12, when a national lockdown was announced. The release of the book is postponed until July 28, 2020.

Would you like to host a Talk Show?

Shortly after the lockdown took place, a week before Easter, Mareks Nemme from Trentini called me. Trentini Spaces and Design is a design Gallery, located in Riga, Latvia. Before COVID19, they sold high- end design furniture.

Now their objective was to create a new platform for design discussions, the first talk show for architects and designers on Zoom. The idea behind the show is every week, on Thursdays,  to invite an internationally recognized professional in their fields such as architecture and design to discuss current topics in architecture and design.

Trentini asked me to host the first season. Trentini Talk Show is a project I would never have imagined only two months ago.

I was not a TV show host but an academic lecturer

I was not sure. On this point, Zoom was an unknown format for me. I was not a TV show host but an academic lecturer. I used to work with a visually strong presentation behind my back. The room was essential to me. I loved to come to space some time ahead of my lecture to make sure that the lights, sound, and position of the audience are working for me.

I loved traveling with talks to try out different auditoriums created by other architects. Still, one of my favorites is the black auditorium by Kristin Jardmund Architects at Campus Vulkan, a signature building of Westerdals.

Now, the venue is Zoom at the address  Zoom Video Conference. The idea of “room” has changed during the COVID-19 situation, and it was an opportunity to test the hypotheses of fashion spaces in practice through the talk show format.

New and unexpected zone of social interaction

The significant changes in public architecture started already in 2005 with the second digitalization wave when Web 2.0 applications brought changes in consumer’s social and everyday behavior patterns.

It was the beginning of the internet’s severe impact on spaces; even it was a voluntary choice by then. Already in 2019, the design society extensively was communicating via smartphones with apps of social media such as Instagram, while the phone owner’s favorite physical space was defined instead by free wi-fi than particular architecture. 

This year has brought us to a whole new and unexpected zone of social interaction between a retailer, who is the forcing power behind the retail architecture and their consumer. Right now, retailers do not sell products; they are trying to keep their communities via different types of social engagement, such as the talk show I’m hosting now. 

How will design and architecture change when we go back to physical spaces?

Trentini Spaces and Design, has, at least temporarily, turned from a design retailer into a design educator. Right now Zoom is a new site of cultural production, do we want it or not. Retail architecture is developing the way we predicted.  The question is – will be brands such as Trentini able to keep control over the cultural sites they are creating right now, and how it will change the architecture after we go back to physical spaces.

But there is still time, and I’m thankful for those conversations with architects,  designers, and audience. What I have learned so far, the Zoom room has it’s benefits. The last talk was with Sebastian Herkner, a German designer based in Offenbach am Main.

He was in his studio, I was in Oslo, Trentini aired from their showroom in Riga while sitting on Herkner’s designed sofas, and design professionals from Stuttgart, Berlin, and Amsterdam joined our conversation.

And while everyone is in different geographical places, the significant lesson I learned was an unexpected possibility to look another person in the eyes and connect in some not-yet- realized, imagined place. At the address Zoom Video Conference.

Reference:

Vésma K. McQuillan (2020): Fashion Spaces: A Theoretical View Paperback Frame Publishers. To be released on July 28, 2020.

This feature article is written for Kunnskapsmagasinet Kristiania and first published on May 7, 2020.

Text: Vésma K. McQuillan is Professor at Westerdals Department of Communication and Design, at Kristiania University College, Oslo, Norway, where she also chairs the ArchCommLab research group.

Currently, she is hosting Trentini Talk Show, the first talk show for architects on ZOOM. Season one consists of eight episodes, which airs from April to June 2020.

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