Cool Spaces! Premieres on PBS in April

A new AIA-backed television program shows the public what architecture is all about

If you’ve ever turned on the TV and wondered why the gap between home “designer” and “architect” seems entirely misunderstood and mostly impenetrable, there’s a new show on PBS beginning next month for you that puts the architect front and center.

Cool Spaces!, hosted by Stephen Chung, AIA, will explore how architects and their clients use innovative technology and practiced design traditions to shape the world around us. Equally interested in the design process and the design product, the program will demystify the work that architects do for a general audience, helping to build awareness of how an architect’s hand can improve and refine nearly every aspect of the built environment.

The first hour-long episode will be made available to the vast majority of local PBS affiliates on April 1. Each episode will focus on a specific building program type, and the premier will look at sports and performing arts spaces. Chung will visit Moshe Safdie’s, FAIA, dramatically sculptural Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts; HKS’s gargantuan AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys); and the Brooklyn Nets’ aggressively stylish Barclays Center, designed by SHoP Architects.

The program is sponsored by both the AIA and Architect Magazine, the AIA’s official print publication. Chung is a member of the Boston Society of Architects and principal of Stephen Chung Architect. He has taught design and drawing at several universities, including Cornell, the Rhode Island School of Design, and Yale, and has also hosted Architect Magazine’s Architect Live! convention broadcasts for the past two years.

The idea for Cool Spaces! came to Chung several years ago in the aftermath of the devastating recession that shuttered architecture firms and quashed commissions from coast to coast. After his own firm had gone out of business, he was left with time to ponder architecture’s long-term struggles, foremost: How could he better explain what architecture is, and what architects do, in order to better engage the general public?

“With a more engaged general public, there would be more opportunities for architects to build,” Chung says. “Ultimately, I figured, the increased attention could lead to a better built environment. And by that I mean it could be better designed, less costly, more sustainable, and more beautiful. Everyone would benefit. Too ambitious, you say? I think that ambition is a quality that afflicts all architects.”