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The Cinema of Towers, Cadiz

Part 2 Project 2008
Ross Perkin
University of Edinburgh Edinburgh | UK

As we approach Cádiz its density and complexity initially prevent us from penetrating it. Isolated behind its high thick medieval walls on its improbable site in the middle of the bay, Cádiz presents a dense, tightly woven form, a highly compressed system in which all elements appear closed-in, concealing each other, working alongside

We are concerned with how new worlds can be formed in the city, how we can open up a new kind of shifting field for the inhabitants of Cádiz that connects them more than ever to the fabric of their city, but also to the rest of the world. A set of spaces that are intimate yet porous and open, local as well as global.


El Ciné de las Torres, y la Arqueología Romana translated as ‘The Cinema of Towers and Roman Archaeology’. The project aims to reinforce and reactivate an urban block in the old town that is suffering the effects of unemployment, urban decay and dereliction. Excavation works have revealed that the block is situated above the remains of a Roman Circus. These excavations are an active part of the programme, providing public viewing points and an evolving gallery of uncovered relics.

In addition, the introduction of key cultural and community support programmes, act as a catalyst for change and reactivate the spectacle of the Circus. A film centre slowly takes root. Cinema screen spaces are held above the world of archaeology and wedged between key existing masonry walls. These are treated as ‘held’ vessels, like boats entangled in a dry dock, they contain the promise of taking you to a new world.

Ross Perkin

The ambition of the project is to explore a literal and metaphorical radical reinforcement of the urban fabric. “Weak borders” of Sennett’s “places full of time” are explored as “leaky” spaces: in-between and uncovered worlds of spatial sequence, programme and architectural articulation.

The material and spatial arrangement and language of the architectural proposal invents and develops a rich dialogue concerning the weight of held concrete vessels situated above a dense matrix of timber supporting structure, entangled with carefully selected walls, excavations and interior spaces of the existing urban fabric. New street level routes through the urban block are held between the exposed site excavations, understood as a shifting ground latent with the material remains of a Roman Circus, and the shelter/shading of the cinema vessel interiors above. The new configuration of the urban block is activated by indoor and outdoor film projection and related film and archaeological activities. The choreography of a series of contemporary lookout towers and stairs in different parts of the site augments the surprising openness and drama of the existing urban roofscape.

The project is based on meticulous documentation of this materially frail part of Cádiz through fieldwork, historical and technological research, and developed primarily through highly skilled hand-crafted drawing and model-making. Intimate and imaginative interpretation of selected qualities of the existing city become fundamental to subsequent design moves and architectural interventions. The project’s ambition to offer a rich and relevant urban solution to a city with a complex urban grain is explored through ideas of reinforcement and support alongside a typological “leakiness” argued to be necessary for successful urban activation. The project is outstanding for the specificity of its engagement with this urban context, worked through from the scale of speculative history to the scale of spatial experience.

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