School of Architecture College of Design

Magic, Misdirection and the Architecture of Influence

Workshop Summary

Perception is the portal  to a complex network of human cognitions that result in what constitutes our reality. Magic works by manipulating these cognitive pathways using limitations in our systems of visual, cognitive, spatial, and temporal awareness to alter the perception of reality and illicit the experience of wonder and astonishment. As such, the principles, methods and effects of magic can be used to persuade and influence human behavior.

Magic, Misdirection and the Architecture of Influence defines the underlying dynamic design structures of influence. From the modern political campaign to contemporary conceptual art, from advertisement to architecture; human actors, as sociopolitical agents and consumers, are intermediated by a contemporary influence practice. This project suggests that language, image, wonder and space, can be more effectively inter-designed to produce desired outcomes in audiences through the integrated use of specific psychological, mnemonic and aesthetic strategies drawn from the methods and principals of performance magic.

Exploring the intersection of architecture and performance magic we find interesting shared qualities. Architecture is produced in accordance with entire sets of methods, theories and practices that remain invisible to the experience of the architectural user. Whether a drawing, building, city plan, or policy, the architectural object occupies a similar realm of secrecy as performance magic - both leverage a form of 'difference' to achieve their desired effects. In simplified terms, magic leverages the difference between performance and perception while architecture leverages the difference between design intension and construction.


Guest Instructor

Richard Merritt, Professor of Art, Luther College

Guest Biography

Richard is a trans-disciplinary artist whose work sits at the cross roads of aesthetic object, social practice arts, and scholarship. He has exhibited, published, and presented his research in a wide variety of disciplines, most recently at Oxford University, U.K. and Kyoto, Japan. his scholarly work has appeared in numerous publications, among them Leonardo Journal of Arts and Sciences of the MIT Press, as well as the proceedings of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

Merritt has always been intrigued by how art can sit at the intersection of a lot of different subjects. "As an artist, I recently started to think of myself as transdisciplinary - working across a number of disciplines and with a number of scholars whose primary discipline may be different or even divergent from my own."

Art, for Merritt, is the only discipline that, at the core of its practice, allows a person to be fully engaged in the most basic of human faculties to observe and perceive. "Artists typically have a high degree of sustained critical attention," he says. "This kind of focus is useful in all disciplines. For me, this training has led to research in history, art's connection to the history of science, information visualization, critical theory, and memory."


Faculty Host

Jacob Mans, Assistant Professor, UMN ARCH

School of Architecture
145 Rapson Hall
89 Church Street
Minneapolis, MN 55455

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Contact Information

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