SAH Newsletter

Jennifer Reut: Performing History - A PechaKucha Night in Buffalo

by Jennifer Reut | May 02, 2013

In the middle of an inauspiciously cold, wet week in Buffalo, New York, the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) planned something a little different for its annual meeting this April. On Friday night, after a full day of sessions, meetings, and tours, a crowd of academics, architects, local activists, and students munched on tacos from the food truck parked outside and sipped beer from a makeshift bar in the darkened nave of Asbury Hall, a 19th-century church designed by John Selkirk and restored by musician and activist Ani Di Franco. The church, now a performance and arts space, thrummed with anticipation, but when the cavernous room went dark, no musicians stepped onstage. Instead, a lone spotlight illuminated a microphone in front of a huge screen. This was the beginning of PechaKucha Buffalo, an event in which each participant talks about a project or idea using 20 images which are shown for 20 seconds each.

PechaKucha, which is the sound of “chit chat” in Japanese, began in 2003 as a way for architects and designers to meet and show their work to each other and interested members of the public. PechaKucha is now a global phenomenon, according to the website (www.pechakucha.org), with PechaKucha nights taking place in over 600 cities with presenters from wide spectrum of backgrounds. Part of the success is the clearly the appeal of the highly structured format: Six minutes and 40 seconds of precisely timed slides is enough time to get into a topic but not enough to lose the audience, and it’s a perfect platform for projects that are still in the brainstorming or doodling phase.

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