Page 1



Gary Drexler Syracuse University Bachelor of Architecture Thesis Prep Advisers: Kyle Miller, Brian Lonsway



“Every good city needs three things; a book store, a coffee shop, and a cinema.” - Marvin Krislov

CONTENTS Thesis Statement Abstract

4 5



Architectural Significance


Cultural Experiences of Cinema & Cinema Arch.


CURRENT CONTEXT Technological Advances


Culture vs. Economy










Speculative Imagery



SITE AND PROGRAM Historical Context


Proposals and Goals


THESIS STATEMENT With the advent of screen space technology, the ability for film in the cinema to create attractive cultural experiences in the physical environment has diminished and can be reclaimed with architectural proposals that are technologically advanced, architecturally iconic, and culturally stimulating.


ABSTRACT For over 100 years cinema has been about providing a cultural experience. The cinema has undergone its own changes from being store based with Edison’s Kinetiscope, to side along attractions beside vaudeville acts with Lumiere’s Cinematograph, to the current cinema with minimized ornamentation which focuses on the film as the sole immersive attraction. But within the past 10 years and with the introduction of new screen based and handheld devices the ability to watch movies anywhere has reduced the cultural experiences that cinema can provide. The loss of the cultural experience is represented by new technology in filming and film viewing as well as the architecture of the cinema. The architecture of the current cinema is focused mainly on how to arrange a series of screening rooms which have no relation to their surroundings in an attempt to shroud the physical experience of the cinema and isolate the visual experience. This has been an attempt for “Cinema [to] make you forget you are sitting in a theatre.” The architecture of the cinema has the capability to expand beyond the auditorium into the more public realm. Cinema is primarily about the films which will be viewed but the times before and after the film screening are just as important in fostering cultural experience. Whether it is a group of people visiting a kinetiscope parlour, a crowd of vehicles at a drive in, or a theatre room full of people, cinema has consistently been about a communal and cultural experience. Different scales of architectural intervention will provide new ways to experience film, new uses of technology, and ways to engage a community, all of which will enhance the cultural and immersive experiences of cinema which have diminished. 5



CINEMA TECHNOLOGY The cinema building type has only been around for just under 120 years. Cinema had certain preconditions that needed to be met before it could become a dominating technological and entertainment event. First understanding that motion is perceived by the human eye at a minimum of 16 frames per second; this condition was explored by early toys like the zoetrope. Second the ability to capture and reproduce images in rapid succession onto clear material; the first of these images were captured by Edward Muybridge tracing the footsteps of a horse while running. Lastly it was necessary to be able to project these images using a mechanism which could quickly stop and move the clear images.1 Edison along with W.K.L Dickson was the first to create the mechanisms which could show the films strips that were recorded. They did not however create projection systems which limited their viewers to single machines. Nearly simultaneously to Edison’s inventions the French Lumiere brothers created their cinematograph which was able to capture, produce, and project rapid series of images. 2

(1.1) Edison Kinetiscope Parlour

(1.2) Etching of a Lumiere Cinematograph

These “boxes” were the first in the series of technology which shaped many architectural aspects of the cinema. The early projection devices were very prone to flammable eruptions. Only recently the typical projection system changed away from a literal film strip projection system to a digital system. This as well as other technological advancements have just recently changed the main way cinema is able to be widely distributed. (1.3) Projector Series: a. Cinematograph 1894 b. Slide reel projector 1904 c. Film projector 1970 d. imax projector 2010 7


SCREEN SPACE The definitive aspect which defines cinema has and should always be the screen on which it is viewed. This has been a drastically changing technology from the birth of cinema in 1894. It was what created such a revolutionary entertainment and cultural event. But the recent and growing screen technologies which have emerged have limited the ability for the cinema to be able to remain a major cultural attraction.

(2.1) Lumiere Cinematograph

12 feet


12 feet Screen Size

The first films which were projected by cinematographs and other small projectors utilized typically small screens averaging around 15 feet diagonal dimensions. This accommodated around 15 people and typically at a fairground setting.

Screen Size

15 ft

15 ft

Avg: 15 People

Avg: 15 People

12 feet

12 feet

THE ROXY THEATRE Screen 1927 Size

Screen Size

Screen Size

The Roxy theatre was one of the first 15 ft movie theatres. It was specifically designated designed and designated a movie palace. It was designed in Avg: the same style as many of the 15 People live acting theatres which were converted into movie theatres. The Roxy had an extremely large attendance size of 5720 and was the beginning of the golden age of cinema. Approx. 80 feet Screen Size

15 ft 50 ft

50 ft

Avg: 15 People Capacity: 5,720

Capacity: 5

(2.2) Roxy Theatre New York, Auditorium Approx. 80 feet

Screen Size

50 ft

50 ft

Capacity: 5,720

Capacity: 5,720 Approx. 80 feet

Approx. 80 feet


48 - 120 inches

Screen Siz

48 - 120 inches

Screen Size

Screen Size

Screen Size 15 ft

50 ft

15 ft

50 ft

Avg: 15 People

Avg: 15 People Capacity: 5,720 Approx. 80 feet

Capacity: 5,720

Screen Size

Approx. 80 feet Screen Size

50 ft

Capacity: 5,720

Approx. 80 feet Approx. 80 feet

MAGNAVOX 1950 50 ft The first television and home theatre sets privatized the screen experience. They restricted the cultural experience of the Capacity: screen. The new5,720 screen space, with a screen size of initially 12 inches, was limited to more intimate spatial and social interactions and was the first step in the diminishment of the silver screen’s cultural relevance.

(2.3) Magnavox Home Theatre 48 - 120 inches

48 - 120 inches

48 - 120 inches Screen Size

Screen Size

12 - 80 in

12 - 80 in

Avg: 4-7

Avg: 4-7

48 - 120 inches Screen Size

Screen Size


18 inches

Screen Size 18 inches Avg: 5 - 11 in


Avg: 1-2

(2.4) Panasonic Portable DVD Player 18 inches

12 - 80 in

Screen Size

The invention of new viewing technology 5with - 11 in the vhs and later the dvd only further Avg: 4-7 isolated the social experiences of the Avg: 1-2 cinema. The first portable dvd player released by panasonic in 1998 with a screen size of 5 inches even furthered the removal of the social aspects of film.

Screen Size 518 - 11inches in

Screen Size 5 - 11 in

Avg: 1-2

Avg: 1-2

iPOD The first video iPod with video was released in 2005 and was the first apple product in a line of many since which have as a main feature the ability to watch movies and video. The screen size had once again become smaller at now only 2.5 inches. The apple handheld devices to follow included the iTouch as well as the iPhone and most recently the iPad and iPad mini in 2010. The iPad increased the size of the screen back to 11 inches. The number of devices, both tablets and smart phones, in the US has reached 230 million by the end of 2013.

(2.5) iPod Video (3rd Gen)

(2.6) iPad (1st Gen)

3D Another trend in screen technology has been to emulate the technology that is being implemented in theatres. This is seen most recently in the invention of 3D capable televisions. Though not yet widespread this technology continues to threaten the ability for the cinema to spawn a culturally attractive experience.

(2.7) Vizio 3D TV

GOOGLE GLASS The most recent technology, even yet to be released, continues to expand the experiences of an increasingly digital era . The implications of this device on cinema as well as society have yet to be seen but will undoubtedly shift the technological landscape.

(2.8) Google Glasses


ARCHITECTURAL SIGNIFICANCE Technology has had a hold on the outcome of cinema development but a greater cinema experience has and will hopefully always require a place to view movies. The quality and style of architecture used to house cinema, one of the youngest building types, is one of the most representative of the culture and time in which it was built.3 (3.1) Imperial Bio, Jean Desmet

The architecture initially began as a side attraction with Vaudeville Acts often found in fairgrounds and carnivals (3.1). The films which were being produced in cinema’s infancy were low budget and short pieces, often documenting banal events. The main goal of the architecture was to show off this new and awe inspiring technology which allowed people to be “transported “ to another place.

(3.2) Graumann’s Chinese Theatre

This element of “transportation” is what continued to inspire cinema design through the early 1920’s. This period of time is when imperialism boomed and the awe of another country’s culture was inspiring. Many of the theatres were designed with this in mind. One of the most iconic theatres in cinema history to this day, Graumann’s Chinese Theatre (3.2), defined the era of cinema architecture to come.

(3.3,4) Hippodrome, Coventry, 1937

The 1930’s saw an influx of Art Deco design style.4 This was in direct response to the events of the great depression. The cinema was to be a place that, unlike the regular theatre, would accommodate the everyman and be a place of grand leisure and luxury. The designs were often highly ornamented and considered dream palaces (3.3 - 3.6).They called attention to themselves and quickly became icons of an escape and a night out.

(3.5,6) L: Odeon Colwyn Bay R: Odeon Leicester 12

Art Deco theatres flourished through the 1930’s and 40’s. Booming in the 50’s a car culture which celebrated capitalism and victory post WWII emerged.5 From car focused diners to the ever popular “DriveIn” theatre cars dominated American life. This in effect removed the architecture of the cinema and stripped it down to the only thing which was necessary, the screen (3.7). The “Drive-In” remained an integral part of cinema culture for many decades and are still used to this day, be it not that often. The architecture of the screen or billboard took on new meaning with Venturi and his discussion of the duck verse the shed. But the Drive-In still represented what was always present in cinema architecture and that was the self advertisement seen in the towers of Odeons (3.6) and others. The cinema architecture of the 1970’s and 80’s however began to be only more so relegated to the corners of buildings and nearly hidden in corporate complexes (3.8). This is considered to mainly be a result of the ever growing capitalist culture and economical issues being faced by the movie studios. In the 1990’s however there was a major resurgence of architecturally relevant cinema design (3.9). This occurred due to the beginning use of Imax technology and increased educational and documentary films being produced. The architecture needed to house the massive curved screens and auditoriums as well as other educational museum program. Many of these complexes remain highly active cultural institutions to this day while the Imax technology, which allowed for them, expands to other theatres and megaplexes.

(3.7) Drive-In Theatre 1950

(3.8) ABC Putney 1975

(3.9) Education Science Center, Edmonton


CULTURAL EXPERIENCES OF CINEMA AND CINEMA ARCHITECTURE The cultural experiences of cinema have always been primarily created based on the films which are viewed in the cinema. The original cinematograph presented the public with the first opportunity to watch moving captured images. The shock of this experience was one of the most disruptive technological events. (4.1) Cinematograph 1897 Operated by Will Day

(4.2) Train Arrival at la Ciotat 1896

(4.3) Graumann’s Chinese Theatre 1922

(4.4) Battleship Potempkin 1925


There are many anecdotes from the first film distribution, August and Louie Lumiere’s (4.1)“Train Arrival at la Ciotat” (4.2), of the viewer standing in front of the screen, and because of the angle of the camera, thinking they would actually get hit and falling back.6 The films which initially emerged were documentary in nature due to the still new understanding of potential. The films were silent and limited to 52 seconds long. Very quickly however the technology grew and by the 1920’s films were featuring much more involved content and just like the era of architecture which focused on dfferent cultures, like Graumann’s Chinese theatre (4.3), so did the films begin to focus on other cultures and show scenes from other countries all over the world. This most likely stemmed from a general interest in other cultures post WWI. This also brought about some of the first films to document as well as use war as a genre of film (4.4). Not only were the films changing based on the time but as previously discussed so was the architecture and this led to the films in turn being changed again. By the 1930’s when cinemas were needed to be luxury palaces for everyone to enjoy so did the movies take on a similar role of attempting to inspire romance and happiness in its viewers.

The Art Deco theatres as well as the quick to follow expressionist designs (4.5) were hopeful and future looking while remaining magnificent venues for the everyday person to enjoy. A majority of films were being produced by major motion picture studios and captivated audiences in ways no one had previously imagined. The films Such as Casablanca (4.6) and Gone with the Wind (4.7) made the public forget about their depression era problems and escape to a happier place.7 The Cinema’s success followed the success of the studios making films and soon became the main place to enjoy an evening of entertainment. The lobby as well as the street and plaza of the dream palace was a prominent feature as it attracted larger crowds for an only ever expanding selection and production of films. With the films becoming more and more attractive the cinema architecture became the place to advertise the films (4.8). The early 40’s saw the first influences of expressionism with the era of Film Noir. These films defined an era of cynicism and sexual attitudes. The hollywood era had begun and noir was the best avenue for which to express the pain and anguish caused by a second world war. Very typical plots focused on crime drama and utilized the emotions of the public post war to garner support and empathy for the characters all the while being surrounded by a similar dark place to the one the country was in. Murder mysteries were common and films like M (4.10) with its deep scenes and chiaroscuro brought intense emotion to the screen.

(4.5) Universum, Berlin. 1928

(4.6)Casablanca 1942 Gone with the Wind 1939

(4.8) Odeon, Leicester Square 1937

(4.9) Prisoner of Zenda, 1938 (4.10) M, 1931 15

(4.11) Drive - In Theatre 1950

(4.12) The Thing from Another World, 1951

(4.14) Cinerama Dome, 1963

(4.15) 2001 A Space Odyssey, 1968


Post WWII and following the Film Noir era the car culture which was dominating America also influenced the cinema. The drive in became more than prevalent. The films which emerged were a product of the new type of cinema as well as the new screen technology in the form of the television. Many movies begun being produced and distributed straight to the television. The budgets were smaller and the concept of the B - movie emerged.8 Science fiction film dominated the landscape (4.12). With the cinema outside the city and now meant mostly for cars and a suburban culture the cinema architecture became an exercise in mostly billboard design.

The 1960’s saw a resurgence of technology both in terms of the films being made as well as the cinemas which showed them. Where science fiction became prevalent in the 50’s it only grew more in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (4.13) and slightly later Star Wars became great cultural icons of many generations. The technology which changed cinema during this time did not remain and was quickly too much work to implement as well as to film for. However some of these cinemas are still in use today. The Los Angeles Cinerama (4.14) was a shining example of the future of cinema tech at the time and possibly one of the first attempts at a glasses less 3D film experience. A curved screen was necessary as multiple projections overlaid to give the impression of depth. The experience of film had slightly shifted to a more personal one with the introduction of television and only more so with the introduction of beta max and video home systems (VHS).

The Thatcher and Reagan era potentially brought capitalism to its highest point. This is also seen in the cinema and film industries. The architecture of the cinema became relegated to corporate complexes (4.17) while the films shown in them became higher and higher budget and higher grossing (4.18). Any cinemas which had not moved into the suburbs and become megaplexes were typically mixed with office complexes.9 The growth in capitalism which had also encouraged the development of the VHS sparked the re-growth of films. The Hollywood model only further developed. The quality of architectural experience was by this point rapidly diminishing while the quality of narrative filmmaking was drastically increasing.

(4.17) ABC Putney, 1975

(4.18) The Godfather, 1972

The 1990’s saw the emergence of a technology which seems commonplace today, Imax. Imax cameras were mainly used in their outset to film documentary films (4.20). The educational nature of these films led to the museums in which they would be shown to become architecture of cinema. The introduction of DVD and Real-D technology around this time period also helped boost the film industry but led to the typical cinema of the 21st Century, the megaplex.

(4.19)American Museum of Natural History, 2000

(4.20) IMAX Under the Sea, 2009 17

In the past two decades the megaplex has become the standard in cinema architecture. It does not however provide the same level of cultural experience which the dream palaces or art deco theatres once did. This is not to say that the current cinemas of the day have no place, in fact it could be said that they provide a valuable necessity, however they provide such at the cost of losing the cultural value that the cinema once provided. (4.23) AMC Westminster, CO 2003

(4.24) The Avengers 2012, Netflix Streaming

The corporate nature of the film industry has led to the highest budget and best made movies to date as well as the astounding variety of ways in which to watch them; this would hopefully not dictate that the nature of film viewing must lose its value as a stimulant of culture. Technology of screen space has allowed for the immense growth of the film industry and the quality of high budget films while simultaneously reducing the cultural qualities once inherent in going to the cinema.






TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES With all of the technological screen advancements cinema has the need to offer an experience that differs from the experience the viewer can get with their mobile and home devices. This has been attempted by mainly utilizing simply insertable objects in any theatre. (5.1) 3D Audio Speculation

(5.2) 4D Smell Activation Theatre

(5.3) D-Box Motion Seating

The technology being implemented in cinema does offer slightly different experiences than those that can be had by an iPad or television. But the technology serves mainly as a gimmick. Where most technological advancements can in their inception be viewed as gimmicks the technological advancements that can transcend this description should do more than simply alter an environment. One of the current technological changes is “3D� Audio (5.1), which will be one defineable trait that will be necessary in any modern theatre for providing the quality audio immersion that goes beyond the home setting. Two elements of technology which are slowly being implemented into theatres are odor emitters (5.2) and D-Box motion seats (5.3). These technologies are most often used in theme parks and have only recently entered the cinema. Lastly, of course the technology which is now ever present in cinema is 3D glasses (5.4). But even this technology has begun to permeate into the home market with 3D televisions and blu ray, and mobile with the Nintendo 3DS. The aspect that is missing from any of these innovations is the ability to change the architecture or movie going experience and not just the film viewing experience.

(5.4) 3D Glasses 22

One project which uses technology to alter the architecture while making a unique experience both culturally and in film is the newly constructed Orbi in Tokyo, Japan. Following the trends of the 1990’s, which saw the construction of many museum centers centered on cinemas, this facility, funded by SEGA and BBC, is partly educational giving experiences of flora and fauna in unique ways by utilizing projection systems (5.8).

(5.5) Orbi Theatre Axon

The Orbi has as its main attraction a cinema which utilizes new film and screen technology which with a very wide and curved screen (5.5) gives a very deep 3 Dimensional presence. This occurs in a the main room which also houses fog and mist producers to create a full immersion in documentary nature based films (5.6,5.7).10 (5.6) Orbi Curved Screen Room

The Orbi is a good example of a cinema that utilizes new technology in a way that creates an immersive, cultural, and unique technological cinema experience.

(5.7) Orbi Curved Screen Room Fog

(5.8) Orbi Lobby 23

CULTURE VS. ECONOMY The current architectural tendencies of cinema design are informed by economy more than many other things. Theatres began mass relocating to suburban environments in the 1970’s. The cinemas became focused on hot dogs and popcorn and not the experience. It also became about being able to house the most number of theatres.

(6.1) AMC Nashville, TN

The multiplex followed the trend of other capitalist ventures which ended up creating big box architecture. The architecture of economy could be seen to have begun with the Odeons in the 1940’s. The main reason behind cinema architecture moving towards multiplexes is the dominance of corporations like Regal and AMC emerging in the 70’s and 80’s.

12 AM




12 PM

(6.2) Typical Multiplex Floor Plan

(6.3) Multiplex Movie Times Noon to Midnight


The now suburban movie megaplexes offered a completely different experience of cinema in the form of variety. Just like the DVD, as well as the VHS before it, helped boost the film studio industry the new theatre allowed for vast numbers of films to be shown at once. Where this has helped the film studios it has changed the movie going experience. The experience in these theatre types is dominated only by the single film viewed.


12 AM

Both theatre types have merits and cater to a specifically intended experience. Neither is nor should they become the primary form of cinema experience, but rather shift slightly or change to accommodate an even greater variety of experiences.


Culture in the form of strong shared experience of a spectacle mixed with other community driven programs make the single cultural theatre a great addition to the cinema landscape.

(6.5) Kino Xenix Floorplan


Once the cinema was a dream palace. It served thousands of people at a time in a style far above the class of current theatres. The single theatre though not offering the multitude of movie times and blockbuster hits that the megaplex does is able to offer the key ingredient that is what initially made the cinema flourish and become the most dominating form of entertainment, culture.

(6.4) Kino Xenix Night Render

12 PM

An emerging trend, which may not threaten the megaplex business model, is that of the Cultural Theatre. These theatres which have begun to emerge often show more independent and small budget films but also serve to provide more than that solitary viewing experience. The small theatre provides the ability to forge a smaller but greater community. The films are a way to engage and bring people together rather than to make money.

(6.6) Art Theatre Movie Times Noon to Midnight




ARCHITECTURAL Contemporary technology as well as technologically driven design can be used to bring attention to and create iconic cinema structures.

Busan Cinema Center Coop Himmelblau The cinema center functions both as a new cultural nexus as well as the setting of an international film festival. The film festival would bring in large public audiences and as such the building’s main goal is to link interior and exterior public spaces.

(7.1) Busan Cinema Center Daytime view 27

TYPOLOGICAL The 1930’s brought about cinemas architecture that focused on the self advertisement. The cinemas starting with Universum in Berlin had towers which could often be lit up and advertised upon. The cinema was a focus of nightlife and as so called attention to itself with lights and distinct and iconographic structures. The Busan Cinema Center uses technology to create a modern icon as well. Busan has a very large and undulating pair of roofs which have embedded led’s. Both the lights and the roof function the same as the Odeons and other cinemas advertising themselves using iconographic and technologically driven architecture.

(7.2) Architectural Self Advertisement Diagram 28

(7.3) Busan Cinema Center LED Ceiling Panels

(7.4) Busan Cinema Center Nighttime View 29

SCREENING SPACES The cinema screen spaces vary in size type and space. The main theatre is an exterior but covered cinema for the largest group while the smaller theatres are located inside the undulating roof.

(7.5) Screening rooms location 30

(7.6) Under roof largest screening seating

(7.7) Smaller theatre in roof 31

CULTURE / SOCIAL Implementation of cinema design at the scale of the screen alone can revitalize and create community engagement.

Open Air Cinema Julia Kick This Cinema is located in Salzburg, Austria. It is outside the city center and serves a small community. The cinema design, which is relegated to a courtyard, is limited and only applies to furniture pieces which can be moved around the site , the screen, and some fabric walls to block the street view. The project demonstrates how architecture of the cinema at the scale of the screen alone can create an attractive cultural and community experience.

(7.8) Mooskino Night Screening 32

(7.9) Furniture diagrams

(7.10) Community space diagram 33

Cinepalego Byeon + Yamashita As an entry into a competition for ArchTriumph International. The competition entry utilizes the vacant roof spaces in the Shinjuku, Tokyo. The project has high hopes of integrating cinema into the cultural social and physical environments of Tokyo but at its base is a project which can create small collections of community based on theatres spread all over the city. The project is an another example of a project which functions at the scale of the screen but also creates a community infrastructure in a city.

(7.11) Rooftop Cinema Render Diagram 34

(7.12) Single Rooftop Cinema Screening

(7.13) Rooftop Cinemas network diagram 35

TECHNOLOGY Utilizing new technology can allow for new typologies in cinema design, bringing film to new spaces in a way that remains culturally active.

Portavilion Hopkins Architects From a technological standpoint the Portavilion emphasizes the ability for cinema technology to be placed anywhere. At its creation the Portavilion was classified as the worlds smallest cinema only emphasizing the technological ability to remain a cultural institution regardless of size.

(7.14) Portavilion class use 36

(7.15) Portavilion placement map 37

Skyline Residence Belzberg Architects This cinema serves a very small community of just one residence but due to its scale and the architectural ability it is able to function as a cinema and not just a home theatre. Similar to Busan Cinema Center the cinema is an outdoor screen and can be viewed from a covered area. The skyline residence also echoes concepts of the infrastructure seen in Cinpalego if understood as a series of home based cinemas across the city.

(7.16) Skyline Residence nigh time screening 38

(7.17) Movie connections

(7.18) Skyline Residence elevation 39

ECONOMY The inclusion of multiple programs which encompass more than a single cinema icon creates a more attractive cultural environment.

Cinema WĂśhrden West GĂźnter Hermann Located in Tuttlingen Germany this cinema is part of a complex which also has housing, restaurants, and offices. The organization of these programs creates a public square and promotes a greater sense of community and cultural engagement. The cinema building uses a metal mesh covering a full glass facade which allows the building to call attention to itself at night.

(7.19) WĂśhrden West nighttime photo across the river 40

(7.20) Wรถhrden West Aerial View 41


(7.21) Program diagram 42




(7.22) Wรถhrden West bar program

(7.23) Wรถhrden West community space 43



Cultural experience in the physical environment can be reinvigorated using cinema proposals which stimulate culture and community at the scale of the screen, are architecturally iconic at the building scale, and technologically advanced at an infrastructural scale.



Technology now allows cinema to be placed anywhere with efficient and affordable projectors and screens. Current infrastructure as well as new infrastructure can utilize cinema to create attractive cultural spaces. The Highline as diagrammed below (which already creates interesting public events) could easily be manipulated and create more cultural events focusing on cinema.


Though technology allows for a wider variety of cinema types it should also be used to create more immersive experiences of the films that will be viewed. The section represents a possible theatre which would utilize the visuals and scenes from a certain film to dramatize the entire cinema experience not just that of the film; it could potentially use projections and screens to alter to visuals of the theatre.



This image shows a public promenade which has been transformed into a hub for small cinema pods. The street already contains certain programs such as shopping and some nightlife culture but could be added to with cinema as well as housing which would create better community engagement. A technological aspect is present in the ability for the pods to let users choose films creating unique experiences.


The attributes of economy which are most notably effective in fostering attractive cultural experiences are the variety of program allowing for community to develop. This rendering supposes the creation of a promenade and living community along the riverfront of St. Louis.



Another concept rendering located in St. Louis attempts to reinvigorate culture in the suburbs north of the city center which have seen mass abandonment in past decades. The project utilizes concepts similar to those of Mooskino in Salzburg designing the cinema at the scale of just the screen. Also incorporated is the use of a shading/rain roof. The screen is placed into one of many vacant lots and could be one of many in an infrastructural network of community screens.


Another city which has experienced a decline and has many abandoned and vacant buildings and lots is Detroit. One very attractive project which has been abandoned and is now used as a parking structure is the Michigan Theatre. To help rejuvenate this historic theatre while maintaining its current program and simultaneously providing new cultural life to the once building a drive in cinema is proposed.



Next to St. Louis Cardinals stadium this proposal would hope to provide a more repeatedly used building and cultural center for the city’s downtown. The project is intended to become an architectural icon of the city.


To further alleviate the blight of Detroit and the abandonment of the Michigan Theatre this building addition would also serve to create a architectural icon which would serve the drive in theatre as well as create new cultural attractions in an area which drastically needs intervention.




St. LOUIS St. Louis was founded on the Mississippi river as a strategic position to cut off the British from the fur trade. The city was founded in 1764 by Pierre Laclede and named after patron saint of the house of France, King Louis IX. The city would become a great fur trading post and was believed to become “one of the finest cities in America” because of its placement along the Mississippi. The river became a main feature for the city when the first steamboat arrived and began making regular runs in 1917.11

(8.1) St. Louis Levee 1900

The city began centered around a public plaza in between Laclede’s house and the main river landing (noted by the dot and concentric circles on the map to the right). St. Louis officially became an American city in 1822, the year after Missouri became a state.12 One of the most prominent features of the city of St. Louis is the Eads bridge completed in 1874. The bridge had a top deck for pedestrian and street traffic and a lower deck for trains. The bridge was conceived with an innovative use of steel and soon to follow in 1892 Louis Sullivan utilized steel construction to realize the skyscraper aesthetic in the 10- story Wainwright building.13 The city would soon become as it was predicted a great American city when in 1904 it hosted the world’s third olympiad along with a world’s fair. The city became a center for culture as well as heavy industry. With that industry came immense population increases. Post WWI the city was striving to increase its public space in order to provide for its new inhabitants and also kept expanding industry. (8.2) St. Louis Map 1850 55

(8.3) 56

Where population increased so did housing. The suburbanization which was occurring everywhere else in the country was also seen in St. Louis. With an expanding middle class St. Louis saw massive single family homes built very near the city center and unlike other major cities of the era either could or would not annex the surrounding areas.14 During WWII and the depression that came with it building had hit a lull. The massive building and suburban culture that had grown in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was in wild disrepair. The population hit its peak of 856,796 in 1950 as measured by the U.S. census. Projects of “Urban Renewal” were beginning in many cities including Detroit and Syracuse. St. Louis’ urban renewal project, Pruitt-Igoe, is known as one of the worst, and was demolished only a year after construction.15 Though in hind sight there were many reasons for Pruitt Igoe’s inevitable failure the project, as well as further suburbanization, led St. Louis to shrink. The newest measured population was 318,172. The decrease in population was caused by and also helped cause in some ways the further decline of industrialism in the city. With the decline in need for river transportation and industry in the area, the city has since lost much historical and cultural richness which it once had. Because of this loss in culture and shrinking nature of the city St. Louis makes for the perfect test site to reinvigorate the cultural experiences of a city using the program of cinema, which has similarly lost its societal cultural value.


(8.4) Industrial zoning and occupancy, 2000. East-West Gateway, parcel data. 58

INDUSTRIAL The industry in St. Louis most likely began with the first steamboat which made inaugural runs in 1817. Steamboats began lining up on the shores of the Mississippi in St. Louis soon after. The boats filled the shores so heavily that when one steamboat, the White Cloud, caught fire it couldn’t avoid bumping others and eventually led to the destruction of fifteen downtown blocks.

(8.5) St. Louis Levee 1900

Though industry ended up along the river the initial industry was located mostly from fourth st. to the river with churches and houses even further beyond.16 The industry grew north and south from the original plaza created by Laclede. The industry zoning now expands nearly fourteen miles along the eastern edge of St. Louis and on the water’s edge. The industry is only broken up by the Jefferson Memorial and the Gateway Arch, whose site was freed by demolishing many rows of industry and housing.

(8.6) View from 4th Street to the river

The river still currently serves shipping and small public transportation but the remnants of industry in the form of abandonment as well as some still operating light industry remain on the river. (8.7) View of Riverbank at Central Ave.

(8.8) Modern Shipping containers on Mississippi 59

(8.9) Vacant and abandoned properties, St. Louis 2003. East-West Gateway, parcel data. 60

DECLINE The city of St. Louis has the highest percent decline in population in the country. This decline has left more than 25 percent of property vacant. The vacant properties are most dense in the northern suburbs of the city but also spreads as far east as the adjacent city of Clayton. The remnants of abandoned buildings can be seen on every single block of the city suburbs. The population has continued to fall even into the 2010’s. (8.10) Bing aerial view of Northern St. Louis

(8.11) Northern neighborhood rundown houses 2008 61

(8.12) White flight, 1950-1960 Census Bureau (Bogue Files)

(8.13) White flight, 1990-2000 Census Bureau (Bogue Files) 62

RENEWAL / FAILURE In 1933 the Gateway mall began to be planned. The initial Laclede settlement and other 19th century buildings were cleared for the construction of the mall. The end of the mall was commissioned for a national monument, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.17 Eero Saarinen’s design (9.9) won the competition in 1948 but Saarinen would not live to see the start of construction on the memorial in 1963. The arch commemorates St. Louis as the Gateway to the west. It stands 630 feet high and at its base is 630 feet wide.

(8.14) Jefferson Memorial Competition Board

The monument has served as the icon of the city since its completion. However the Arch and its competition which served to bring some economy to the area has also been criticized for its lack of intent. The competition for this area was only another in an attempt to reinvigorate the riverfront which up until 1907 had been plagued by industry. The Arch has been criticized for intentionally not attempting to fix the detriment along the riverfront and accepting it as an unsolvable problem.18 Though the arch has and seemingly always will stand as an icon of St. Louis it marks one of many projects of the urban renewal era that did not succeed as well as intended.

(8.15) Gateway Arch


In 1955 St. Louis had seen a lot of white flight and suburbinization. Urban renewal projects emerging all over the country attempted to clear slums and create viable large scale housing complexes for low income families. The Pruitt-Igoe complexes were created to alleviate the need for upscale housing in the city center during a time of mass exodus to housing being developed on the city’s edge.

(8.16) Pruitt-Igoe aerial photo 1955

St. Louis’ housing troubles and potential solutions were like many other around the country racially charged and influenced. The majority of population moving out of the city was Caucasian and the housing was attempting to stop that. Pruitt-Igoe was designed with certain buildings designated for African Americans and others for Caucasians.19 Soon after the construction the Supreme court ruled this type of planned segregation illegal. This was in fact of little consequence since, though planned for segregation, all buildings by move in became entirely for African American low income families.

(8.17) Pruitt-Igoe view from above 1955

(8.18) Pruitt-Igoe baseball game 64

The project changed the typical typology of housing in the area from single home row housing to large scale apartment complexes. The buildings were spaced such that the shadows created by each building would not touch the next more northern building. This left a lot of space between each building which was intended to be used as public and community fostering space. (9.9)

Pruitt-Igoe has been called the death of Modernism. Though for all its intent to save and revitalize the northern communities of St. Louis Pruitt-Igoe was demolished within a year of its completion. One main design principle of the buildings was a skip stop elevator system which intended to give hallways and floors that would be community sponsoring zones. These floors were the only elevator stops and forced inhabitants to climb stairs to their living floors.

(8.19) Pruitt-Igoe demolition 1956

The design ended up creating perfect ambush spots for local gangs to rob victims. This along with the eventual inhabitants only being low income families caused very quick vandalism (9.9) and abandonment of the newest housing in the country. The demolition was seen as very necessary but no new housing was built to re-house the inhabitants who were either displaced by the initial build or the demolition. The project ended up only furthering the problems of exodus and abandonment in northern St. Louis. The site of Pruitt-Igoe has never been touched since its cleanup and currently exists as an overgrown forest and scar on the city. St. Louis and its northern neighborhoods is seemingly screaming for renovation, which may not come in the form of new housing at the outset but rather as a proposal which will foster growth and community leading to desire for residences in the communities which have seen abandonment.

(8.20) Pruitt-Igoe vandalized hallway

(8.21) Pruitt-Igoe vacant site 2012




(8.22) St. Louis park spaces 66


Vehicular Bridge Train Bridge Major Highway Train Route (8.23) St. Louis transportation infrastructures 67




ZONING The current city has a very localized dense urban zone and an equally localized semi-urban zone. Just outside the semi-urban districts is mostly suburban and abandoned lots. The zoning of the city is still mostly for industry on the riverfront , business and commercial spreading west from the Arch and single family beyond that. To revitalize and bring new culture to St. Louis each of these zones needs to be addressed with proposals that link them and give cause to move between them.

(8.24) Zoning and Land use, 2003. Parcel data, East-West Gateway Coordinating Council. 69

(8.25) Speculative Infrastructural landscape park map 70

PROPOSALS INFRASTRUCTURAL St. Louis has a transportation network of a light rail. The train system only runs on and serves the east west axis of St. Louis. An expansion of this system which could branch of into the north and south suburbs could provide stimulation for growth in those slowly dying communities. The transportation network, as seen at any of the potential stops, does not serve, many public spaces along its routes. The armature and infrastructure that will be proposed will attempt to create a cinema network that provides public spaces throughout the city and connecting the different zones. The network and infrastructure will utilize advanced technology to provide an ever expanding and technologically advanced cinema experience.

(8.26) Google Street View

(8.27) Google Street View

(8.28) Google Street View 71

Site Suburb Transportation Central Business District SiteGateway Mall Jefferson Memorial Suburb Transportation Cardinal’s Stadium (8.29) Central Business District Map and site analysis 72

Central Business District Gateway Mall Jefferson Memorial Cardinal’s Stadium

CULTURAL CENTER - BUILDING The central business district of St. Louis is defined by its main feature of the Gateway Arch but unlike most cities has sports as a main feature of its city skyline. Three major sports teams play in home stadiums within 5 minutes of the Arch; the NFL Rams, the MLB Cardinals, and the NHL Blues. The Cardinals stadium which is located on the south edge of the central business district sits on half of the lot which once housed the circular Busch stadium. The other half of the demolished building site has not been developed. This point in the city serves as an important site to serve the people of the city. It is located at the nexus of three main highway access routes into the city as well as connecting to the Gateway Mall, which is the main public and green space in the city.

(8.30) View of Gateway Arch from site 73

HISTORIC THEATRES - EVENT St. Louis has a great cinema history in the form of theatres that were developed during the peak of cinema architecture. Many of these theatres were the well known “Movie Palaces� and provided a district of the semi-urban with a great cultural presence. The district which housed these theatres was known as the Grand White way. Though Grand Street was known for the most elaborate and ornate theatres many other small cinema houses emerged on nearby streets. Of the multitude of cinemas which once stood and operated in this district only two remain functioning and only one of those functions as a cinema with the other serving only live theatre shows.

Grand Center / Theatre District Grand Center / Theatre District Historic Theatre Historic Theatre (8.31) Grand Center Historic Theatre Locations

Theatres (left to right) Chase Park Plaza Theatre Bonita Theatre Circle Theatre Alps Theatre Congress Theatre Douglass Theatre Comet Theatre Empress Theatre Fox Theatre Ambassador Theatre


This district still strives to function as an art community and culture in the city and has many buildings which serve the same culture, such as the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis, the Pulitzer foundation for the arts, and the Powell theatre or symphony hall.

Grand Center / Theatre District These Historic Theatre

programs in combination with the rich history of the district in cinema will allow for and sponsor growth of cinema events. The proposals that will fill this district will pull from the history of nearby cinemas and hope to recreate a stronger sense of art and culture communities.

The largest theatre which is also one of the few which is still standing is the Fox Theatre. This theatre was created and opened in 1929 and was able to hold 6000 guests. The theatre like many of its time was host to large gala movie openings but was also designed to be able to host live performances. The late 1920’s and early 1930’s theatres all over the country were magnificent palatial structures and designs. The fox theatre was no exception. In the lobby there stood two gilded griffins overlooking the main red carpeted staircase. It is great that this theatre and its decoration were able to survive demolition or fire as so many other theatres were not able to survive. It was not however without dedication to perseverance. The Fox Theatre was renovated and the ceiling wholly refinished in 1981. During this renovation the theatre also expanded its front stage and added more prep and dressing rooms setting its own stage for more and exclusively live performances. Not all theatres however saw this same optimistic end. Many theatres of this era and this district were demolished and now serve as empty lots. The comet theatre was one example of that and was listed at one point as the world’s largest single floor theatre with over 2500 seats. This area is greatly anticipating the opportunity to renovate and rejuvenate a once great cinema culture.

(8.32) Fox Theatre Facade 1929

(8.33) Fox Theatre advertisement 1929

(8.34) Comet Theatre Pre destruction 2003 75


(8.35) Sites Map 76

EVENTS The event proposals will strive to activate small communities by implementing designs at the scale of the screen. The designs will activate certain necessary zones and sites which can host small nearly simultaneous viewing events. Furniture as well as secondary uses will be a main element of design and these proposals will be represented using 1:1 models of furniture along with renders of the experiences of the events. CULTURAL CENTER The cultural center which will be located adjacent to the Cardinal’s Stadium will focus on creating an architecturally iconic structure to house a new cultural center. This center will serve as mainly a cinema and location for film festivals but also incorporate other program to provide a new culturally stimulating space for the city center. This proposal will be represented using architectural drawings of plans sections, study models of the iconic form, and photo-realistic renderings. INFRASTRUCTURAL The infrastructural proposal serves as a backbone to link the other scale cinema projects together with each other and with other parts of the city. The success of any one of the projects at any scale will naturally reinforce the success of the rest by the connections that are designed. The city will have the opportunity to revitalize isolated zones and expand upon the infrastructure to carry that revitalization to other needing zones. This proposal will be represented by large scale maps and site models which show the connections of the other proposals.


Figure Credits 1. 1: K Thompson and D Bordwell, Film History: an Introduction (Boston: McGraw Hill, (2003),8 2: S. Herbert, 1896. 3: Jacques Rittaud-Hutinet, ‘’Le cinéma des origines’’, Champ Vallon, 1985. 20 2. 1: Rittaud-Hutinet, 20 2: Edwin Heathcote, Cinema Builders (West Sussex: Wiley-Academy, 2001), 14. 3: N. Baumann, 2009. https://iaspace. 1960s 4:Panasonic Portable DVD Player 5:Personal Ipod Photo 6: Personal Ipad photo 7: 8: http://www.theverge. com/2013/2/22/4013406/i-used-googleglass-its-the-future-with-monthly-updates 3. 1: Heathcote, 13. 2: Ibid, 16. 3: Ibid, 24. 4: Ibid, 24. 5: Ibid, 42. 6: Ibid, 42. 7: Kate Bubacz, 2013. http://abcnews. 8: Heathcote, 44. 9: Ibid, 48. 4. 1: http://www.victoriancinema. net/machines 2: Thompson and Bordwell, 9. 3: Heathcote, 16. 4: Sergei Eisenstein, ”Battleship Potempkin,” Goskino 1925 5: Heathcote, 34. 6: Michael Curtiz, “Casablanca” Warner Bros. 1942 7: Victor Fleming, “Gone with the Wind” Loew’s, Inc. 1939 8: Heathcote, 42. 78

4. 9:John Cromwell, “Prisoner of Zenda” United Artists. 1937 10: Fritz Lang, “M” Paramount Pictures. 1931 11: http://abcnews. 12: Christian Nyby, “Thing from Another World” RKO Radio Pictures. 1951 13:https://iaspace. 1960s 14:Theatre Posts, photos/theatreposts/5765089658/ 15: Stanley Kubrick, “2001 A Space Odyssey” MGM, WB. 1968 16: Personal VHS tape Photo 17: Heathcote, 44. 18: Francis Ford Coppola, “The Godfather” Paramount Pictures. 1972 19: Heathcote, 48. 20: Howard Hall, “Under the Sea” Imax. 2009 21: Personal Photo 3D Glasses 22: Personal Photo DVD 23: Personal Photo AMC Wesminster, CO. 24: Joss Whedon, “The Avengers” Walt Disney. 2012. 5. 1: 2: Ibid. 3: Ibid. 4:Google Search 3D Glasses 5: archive/2013-08/20/the-story-of-orbi 6: Ibid. 7: Ibid. 8: Ibid. 6. 1: Photo AMC 24 Nashville, TN. 2: Chris van Uffelen, Cinema Architecture (New York: Braun, 2009), 226. 3: Personal diagram of movie times Regal Carousel Mall 4: Uffelen, 66. 5: Ibid, 67.

6. 6: Personal made diagram single theatre showing times. 7. 1: Duccio Malagamba. http://www.archdaily. com/347512/ 2:Personal Diagram 3: 4: Ibid. 5: Personal Diagram 6: 7: Ibid. 8: Uffelen, 121. 9: Bad Architects Group. http://www. naircinema_WEB_101030.pdf 10: Personal diagram. 11: Chansoo Byeon + Daichi Yamashita. cinepalego-futuristic-cinema-competitionentry-chansoo-byeon-daichi-yamashita/ 12: Ibid. 13: Ibid. 14: Uffelen, 129. 15: portavilion2008/files/cinema_map_v2.pdf 16: Uffelen, 116. 17: Personal Diagram 18: the-skyline-residence-by-belzbergarchitects/ 19: Uffelen, 42. 20:Ibid, 43. 21:Personal diagram 22: 23: Ibid. 8. 1: Thomas Easterly, http://steamboattimes. com/levee_scenes.html 2: Phelps Fanning and Company, http:// us_states/missouri/StLouis.html 3: Jefferson Expansion Memorial Photo 4: Colin Gordon, Mapping Decline. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008) 130.

8. 5: Easterly. 6: G. McCue and F. Peters, A Guide to the Architecture of St. Louis (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1989) xxii. 7: Ibid, xxiii. 8: Army Corps of Engineers. http://news. 9 : Gordon, 7. 10: Bing Bird’s Eye View 11:Stephanie S. Cordle. http://www.nytimes. com/imagepages/2007/04/17/us/17stlouis 1.html 12: Gordon, 26. 13: Ibid, 30. 14: Eric Mumford, Modern Architecture in St. Louis: Washington University & Postwar American Architecture 1948 - 1973 (St. Louis: Washington University, 2004) 22. 15: Dan Kiley. dewiki/299214 16: Pruitt-Igoe. challenging-the-great-urban-myths-of-stlouis-pruitt-igoe 17: Ibid. 18: Missouri History Museum, http://www. 19: Pruitt-Igoe 20: Ibid. 21: Google street maps view 22: Personal diagram 23: Personal Diagram 24: Gordon, 119. 25: Personal diagram 26: Google street view 27: Ibid. 28: Ibid. 29: Personal diagram 30: Personal diagram 31: Personal diagram 32: Missouri History Museum. http://mohistory. org/node/92 33: Ibid. 34: Charls Van Bibber. http://cinematreasures. org/theaters/5678 79

Endnotes i. 1.

2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11.

Roman Polanski Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell, Film History: an Introduction (Boston: McGraw Hill, 2003) 4. Ibid, 8. Edwin Heathcote, Cinema Builders (West Sussex: Wiley-Academy, 2001) 9. Ibid, 21. Ibid, 10. Thompson and Bordwell, 16. Heathcote, 16. Ibid, 9. Ibid, 44. Nate Lanxon, http://www.wired. G. McCue and F. Peters, A Guide to the Architecture of St. Louis (Columbia:

University of Missouri Press, 1989) xviii.

12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17.

Ibid, xxi. Ibid, 42. Colin Gordon, Mapping Decline (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008) 130. McCue and Peters, xxx-xxxi. Gordon, 155. Eric Mumford, Modern Architecture in St. Louis: Washington University &

Postwar American Architecture 1948 1973 (St. Louis: Washington University, 2004) 22.

18. 19.


Ibid, 23. McCue and Peters, xxxi.

Bibliography Fear, Bob. Architecture + Film II (New York: Wiley-Academy, 2000) Forget, Thomas. The Construction of Drawings and Movies (New York: Routledge, 2013) Fortin, David. Architecture and Science-Fiction Film: Philip K. Dick and the Spectacle of Home (Burlington: Ashgate, 2011) Gordon, Colin. Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Fate of the American City (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008) Heathcote, Edwin. Cinema Builders (West Sussex: Wiley-Academy, 2001) Koeck, Richard. Cine|Scapes (New York: Routledge, 2013) Marcus, Alan, and Dietrich Neumann. Visualizing the City (New York: Routledge, 2007) McCue, George and Frank Peters. A Guide to the Architecture of St. Louis (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1989) Mumford, Eric. Modern Architecture in St. Louis: Washington University & Postwar American Architecture 1948 – 1973 (St. Louis: Washington Univesity Press, 2004) Neumann, Dietrich. Film Architecture: Set Designs from Metropolis to Blade Runner (New York: Prestel, 1996) Salisbury, Mark. Elysium: The Art of the Film (London: Titan Books, 2013) Sandweiss, Eric. St. Louis: The evolution of an American Urban Landscape (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001) Thompson, Kristin and David Bordwell, Film History: an Introduction (Boston: McGraw Hill, 2003) Uffelen, Chris van. Cinema Architecture (New York: Braun, 2009)


Drexler Thesis Prep Book  
Drexler Thesis Prep Book  

Architecture of the Cinema and the Cultural Experience