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The IMAX cinema near London’s Waterloo Station was designed by Avery Associates for the British Film Institute and opened in May 1999.


The Cinema is a cylindrical building that sits on a traffic island in the middle of a roundabout in London. The ground floor is made up of the entrance hall, ticket kiosk, cafe and toilets. Every other floor is occupied by the auditorium and the huge 20mx26m screen.

The extensive road network around the cinema is also key aspect to its sit. As it is built on one of the busiest junctions in London it see traffic from all over London and the rest of the country, being fed by outer London traffic by the M25.

The site of the cinema is highly important to it’s design and conception. It is Located in central London less than 100 m from Waterloo Station one of the largest stations in London. It is Also very close to the fashionable south bank area which has many art galleys and theaters.

The facade of the building was original used to display artwork as the double thickness plasterboard can adopt any visual form. However it’s high profile location and large 360 degree 12 m high facade area made a grate place to advertise and create revenue for the cinema.

Envelope The main auditorium space is centrally positioned within a cylindrical shell. The juxtaposing geometries of the shapes result in intermediate spaces around the perimeter of the building between the envelope and exterior space. Glass panels hung from steel beams form a faceted external skin. The only openings in the facade are at ground level, minimising opportunity for wind leakage. The space between the glazed skin and the double plasterboard walls provides additional acoustic separation, as well as acting as a gallery space. This minimises noise disturbance from traffic passing around the cinema. The lack of openings also makes the internal environment easier to stabiles, minimising heat transfer and reducing the need for heating and cooling the space.


The structure of this building comes in the form of a steel frame in a cylindrical shape. Both the external wall of glass and the auditorium are suspended from this framework so as to isolate them from vibrations from both the traffic outside and the noise of the tube below. Because the underground tracks are very shallow below the surface, no weight could be put on them so there are concrete piles 20m down then the concrete slab base of the building is placed on oil filled dampers to reduce vibration from the trains.The outer glazing is held on by steel brackets that protrude from the main frame.

Circulation Red = Entering Blue = Exiting

The circular nature of this building allows for a large amount of uncontested areas. However, there are a number of bottlenecks that concentrate the foot traffic and could cause blockages. The most notable of these are the main entrance, which is just one door, and the foot of the main staircase. As the auditorium can hold nearly 500 people these areas could cause problems at the end of the viewing as the high volume of customers will be leaving all at once. The section shows the sunken entrance level and surrounding walkway. The walkway is wide and high allowing good natural light and circulation of people without congestion or blockages.

Spaces The function of the IMAX cinema is clearly defined. The space is well separated with obvious divisions for served / service space. The entrance is on the Ground floor, which is actually below road level. This whole level acts as a service space for the main cinema space as it contains the reception & ticket kiosk, cafe and toilets. The main screen is served by three staircases, one main, wide staircase and two smaller service stairs. There is also a projection room at the rear of the auditorium.

Auditorium Exterior Walkway Main Entrance Ticket Office Foyer Projection Room Access / Service space Toilets


The main frame is made of steel, prefabricated then assembled on site. This meant the whole process was very quick which was important because of the location. Assembling the frame meant blocking off some of the road and this is one of the main roads into London, blocking the road resulted in traffic jams and angry drivers.

The exterior of the building is completely glazed which, as well as showing off the structure, allowed for three hundred and sixty degrees of advertising. Big film posters are typical in all cinemas and this allowed the IMAX to go one better, having posters four stories tall.

The trees create the feel of an underground city garden, where dappled sunlight plays on the wide walkway. Original plans to clad the building in vegetation were declined.

Imax Cinema, London  

Precedent Study by George Fielding, Alex Jackson, Luke Kon, Christina Pettingale

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