Cool Spaces! Architecture Series Premieres Tonight on WLRN

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Courtesy of Stephen Chung, Cool Spaces!
Seattle Public Library, Seattle by OM/REX
Consider the space you're occupying as you read this. It exists because someone you've probably never thought about envisioned and created it. So, go home tonight and instead of watching some of the crap that passes for late night TV, catch the public television premiere of Cool Spaces! The Best New Architecture and find out what goes into making the buildings we pop in and out of daily.

Tonight at 10 on WLRN, Cool Spaces! will debut its first hour-long episode in a series profiling North America's most innovative and provocative public architecture. Each episode tackles a central theme and examines "three very different cities, buildings, architects, and very different designs," according to host and project creator Stephen Chung. Originally an architect and educator, Chung only stepped in front of the camera as a means of introducing the world to quality architecture and its importance after the recession hit the industry and his practice hard.

"Only seven years ago I had to close my office because of the recession...TVs are empowering. I really had to get a lot of experience acting and training. All this stuff where I felt like, 'What am I doing, am I out of my mind?'"

Since then, Chung has appeared on design programs on the Travel Channel, HGTV, Fine Living Network, and Showtime. He has hosted a video series on architecture for the American Institute of Architects and also the live broadcast of its annual national convention. His experiences in broadcast media helped make Cool Spaces! a reality after years of planning.

"I think that people don't think too much about architecture in general. It's always around us and it's easy to be desensitized, to not look. And then when there is something particularly compelling, I don't think architects do a good job of bridging the gap by explaining things in an accessible way. It's a two-way street. But first, the architectural profession has to work harder to connect," Chung said.

What sets the series apart from more traditional architecture shows is that it encourages the viewer to actually visit the carefully selected sites being profiled, which are all open to the public. Chung walks the audience through the episode asking questions and explaining in terms that anyone curious about architecture can understand. The show investigates why and how each building was designed, and what makes it so cool. Cool Spaces! explores everything from the challenges architects face in the design process to the experiences had by people who utilize these spaces on a daily basis. It takes the viewer on not just a tour through the building, but through the mind of the architect and the team behind it.

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Courtesy of Stephen Chung, Cool Spaces!
Stephen Chung interviewing architect Stephen Holl, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City
In addition to the show, Cool Spaces! has partnered with Northeastern University's School of Architecture to create an educational component and make learning material open to the general public. It is primarily targeted at high-school level students interested in architecture and design. "We're not just trying to create the next great architect...it's more for getting a flavor of what you do in architecture. It's meant to be for someone who wants to dip their toes into the water," Chung said. A companion book and e-book is also being launched to coincide with the show's premiere.

The Cool Spaces! team is traveling around the country holding public events, screenings, and Q&A sessions to promote the series with help from AIA chapters, the buildings, architects, and institutions featured in the show. Miami happens to be on the map and Stephen Chung will host a Q&A and limited book signing after the screening.

Cool Spaces! Episode Screening at MCAD takes place at Miami Center for Architecture & Design, 100 NE First Ave., Miami, Wednesday, April 23, 6 to 8 p.m. RSVP required, space is limited. Free admission for AIA members, $10 for allied members, $20 non-members. Call 305-448-7488.

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