By Greg Andrade, professor, themed entertainment design, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)
Designed as a collaborative team experience, the Immersion Challenge will provide the SCAD School of Entertainment Arts student body with the opportunity to showcase leadership in design and creative thinking.
A university is not a theme park, any more than a college is a city. But they do have a number of qualities in common, being defined yet mutable environments that aim to be vibrant, healthy, and desirable for a diverse, expansive population. The only way to maintain and advance those desirable qualities is through a holistic, creative approach.
Here in the city of Savannah, close to the coast in the state of Georgia, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is a university that looks at the world in a holistic manner. Our coursework in design is story-based, and includes a myriad of narrative design pursuits.
By offering an M.F.A. in Themed Entertainment Design (THED) at SCAD, we’re expressly preparing our students for creative careers, exemplified by our numerous alumni who have designed experiences for the likes of Walt Disney Imagineering and Universal Parks and Resorts. But what does it mean to design an experience here and now, as the world is changing in ways few predicted?
This year has been a year unlike any other, as our environments incur demand for sometimes radical adaptation in real time. It’s up to us to create the narrative from these wild variables. As a response, in our THED department at SCAD, we’re launching our first annual Immersion Challenge, part of THEDSCAPES 2020.
Project work will be guided by industry professionals in series of workshop sessions echoing the current virtual workplace paradigm as teams work remotely to develop projects. It’ll be focused on Savannah, and it’ll be fun.
This Immersion Challenge supports this interdisciplinary team collaboration in keeping with SCAD’s mission. Our School of Entertainment Arts covers all aspects of creative process and installation of themed and live experiences, including live performance, stage-set, production design, installation and exhibit design, rides and attractions, writing and story content, lighting design, costume design narrative design.
Immersion Challenge is a wide-open design investigation where installations may be proposed as permanent or temporary project proposals. Students working in teams of four are tasked with creating a series of story-based installation experiences specifically designed for the city of Savannah. The numerous origins of story in Savannah will support entertaining and immersive experiences designed to become a living part of Savannah.
If you know even a little bit about Savannah’s recorded history, which began in 1733 when General James Oglethorpe landed on the bluff above the river, you know how the design of the city is its greatest asset, intrinsic to its identity. Oglethorpe’s peerless urban design for the city, including the storied squares of Savannah, created an urban environment that remains unmatched in the U.S. for its ease of pedestrian access. It’s what makes Savannah such an appealing city today for tourists, residents, and students – including the very same SCAD students taking part in our Immersion Challenge.
Immersion Challenge will foster an attitude of inclusive entertainment design that becomes not just an objective occurrence, but an integral experiential part of how we connect with one another on the streets: face to face, smile to smile. As part of the design workshop, student teams will work along with leading industry design professionals to create installation art-happenings that we’re calling THEDscapes. This means engaging withthe aspects unique to Savannah as an exciting place to make public art and happenings as installations, including the Riverfront walk along the river’s edge, recaptured urban space and the historic squares.
What sort of projects do we hope will emerge from our Immersion Challenge? Ones that make the city a place where people are again able to enjoy themselves, while heightening the experience that is Savannah for visitors and locals alike. It’s often said that limitations can help facilitate creativity, so what better time to be wildly creative than the present?
We’ll report on the Immersion Challenge results in the near future with a followup story in InPark. There’s a chance as well that you’ll see them actualized in person the next time you visit Savannah. SCAD will work with the city of Savannah in the later phases of the process with the hope that some of these student designs might actually be installed in the city. We look forward to that happening, and to immersing you in our THEDscapes to come.
About the author: Professor Greg Andrade – Architect – LEED AP is the mentor for the THEDSCAPES 2020 working sessions. In 1991 Greg began working with the lmagineering division at the Walt Disney Company as a licensed architect. In 2001, he launched Andrade Studio, his own themed design practice specializing in lifestyle, hospitality and narrative based projects globally in the USA UAE, Europe, Japan, China and Korea. He currently teaches at SCAD as a Professor of Themed Entertainment Design. Becoming a member of the SCAD family Greg chose to make the move to SCAD because its Themed Entertainment Design program fosters a depth in its philosophy that he feels is ideal for the optimal teaching and learning environment. His passion for process encompassing trade insights from over 30 years of design practice affords students access to real world skills and knowledge. Greg fosters the placement of students directly into prime industry professional job markets.