DESIGNER COLUMNS & BLOGS / Architecture Is Fun

Posted in Architecture Is Fun on October 12, 2014 12:32 pm EDT

Show and Tell for the Masses: PechaKucha

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TAGS: architecture, collaboration, community, philosophy,


By Peter Exley, FAIA, and Sharon Exley, MAAE, ASID

Design is often best communicated through a well-crafted narrative. Stories make ideas accessible and engaging. We have found that the short story format that is PechaKucha is a great vehicle for this. PechaKucha is an onomatopoeic expression for the sound of conversation: “pe-cha-ku-cha”. Keep repeating it and you’ll hear how it sounds just like chit-chat, which is exactly what it means in Japanese and, more importantly, what it aims to do—to inspire conversation and build a sense of “community.” We like to think that PechaKucha is today’s “Show and Tell” for the masses.

"We have found that the short story format that is PechaKucha is a great vehicle ... for [making] ideas accessible and engaging."

—Peter and Sharon Exley

As a simple presentation format, PechaKucha 20x20 displays 20 images, each for 20 seconds. Images advance automatically, so you chat along with the rapid flow. Our friends and colleagues Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture (KDa) created the first PechaKucha Night in their Tokyo gallery/club/creative kitchen SuperDeluxe back in 2003. Think of it as the modern antidote to the lecture, in fact, a FAQ response on the official website says PechaKucha was devised because, “… architects talk too much! Give a microphone and some images to an architect—or most creative people for that matter—and they’ll go on forever. Give PowerPoint to anyone else and they have the same problem.” The six minutes and 40 seconds of a presentation is just a bit longer than “Bohemian Rhapsody” and a little shorter than “Hey Jude.” Pop-song length is just about the perfect length for an evening of mini-lectures by a dozen or so presenters. It’s short, sweet and concise. PechaKucha is like a concert.

PechaKucha is a lot more than a presentation format—it’s a phenomenon that happens in almost 800 cities around the world. So why is it so addictive, so meaningful, and so full of conversation? To begin with, PechaKucha is universal. It suits any age, Astrid’s daughter presented her artwork at the age of 5 and Mark’s mother presented her elaborate wedding cake creations when 69. We like to say it’s all about passion. What do you want to show and tell? PechaKucha Nights provide anyone and everyone a social platform and accessible format to share with others what they care about.

For the audiences and alumni, PechaKucha events are celebrations of enlightenment. They’re fun nights out, too, many held in social spaces. Some events are huge, with thousands in attendance, some on a more intimate scale. We host the Chicago PK events at Martyrs, a local music venue and our longtime PechaKucha partner. Our audiences total nearly 300 every event, including PK groupies, who seldom miss an event. We’ve taken our show on the road, too, partnering with the city of Chicago, the School of the Art Institute, the American Institute of Architects, and many museums and non-profits. We’ve taught and mentored start-up sites, engaging others in the format and power of presenting what you are passionate about. PechaKucha events have happened in open fields and esteemed halls of culture. In prisons, town squares and schools—naturally, it’s been to church. Demonstrating the depth and diversity of PK’s reach, events were held as near as Edmonton Canada’s McDougall United Church and as far as Evangelical Christ’s Church in the city of Ostrava in the Czech Republic.  continued >>