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Arthouse Cinema for Belfast

Part 1 Project 2000
Sarah Newell
Queen's University Belfast, UK
Abel Gance declared in 1912 that film was a new synthesis of movement and time. Movement has become the precursor in my initial design process-movement of spatial experiences, movement of light through spaces and the movement and rhythm of a façade. As one explores the cinema depth and perspective is revealed. Essentially the plan of the pavilion building is arranged in three linear segments-cinema/auditoria and the Northern Irish Film Commission with a shared service core between the two. At entrance level the patron begins a journey through the undercroft of the large auditoria. This sense of gradual rising height leads the viewer to a triple height void with light filtering through northlights. At ground level a café kiosk and ticket booth is found at this culmination point.
The emphasis was for a glazed animated envelope wherever public functions were found. The café at ground level overlooks the urban square whilst the retail element takes advantage of pedestrians from the Dublin Road. The majority of the façade at ground level is glazed affording glimpses of the square from the Dublin Road. This essentially allows for greater permeability for people who just want to walk through the building without wanting to view a film. The light study concentrates on the public archive. It is composed of a 40 metre long and 4 metre wide linear element divided into two functions. One half of the volume on two levels act as storage vaults while the other half acts as a double height reading room. Diffuse light enters through the reading room with the aid of wooden reflectors that bounce the light off the white walled interior. These are placed at one metre intervals and are three quarters of that in depth. These particular spacings reflect the scale of the interior elements. Slate is used primarily for its durability in the Irish climate. Aesthetically it shimmers when wet, reflecting the sky and surrounding landscape. It is arranged in a modular expression to denote that it is not loadbearing. Slate is quite a hard material visually; thus to soften this cold surface cedar softwood is introduced into the frames of the fenestration. This particular abstract configuration of the façade draws influence from the work of both Loos and Kahn. At ground level the sills are of a sufficient depth to act as window seats overlooking the square. This idea of the window seat is carried through to the interior of the bar.

Sarah Newell

Sarah’s project for a film theatre presents itself to Belfast as a severe and muted object. The soffit-raked forms of the cinemas are contained within the envelope rather than registering their presence on elevation. This scheme recognises a Kahn-like distinction between spaces that serve or are served – this distinction is developed beyond the relationship of foyer to cinema by defining a long, tall and narrow element containing all of the cellular accommodation. This diagram is developed further in section by raising the administrative block by one storey forming a colonnade to the street. In the primary block the three cinemas are slung overhead permitting an uninterrupted relationship between the foyer and square. This relationship is mediated by the generous windows that reveal the timber lining of the buildings interior. The timber is replaced externally by slate cladding completing a restrained and elegant palette of materials. Sarah’s detailed study of the research reading room and specific windows satisfyingly reinforce and articulate the primary strategies of the project.

This summer Sarah graduated with distinction and has recently started her year out in practice here in Belfast.

Alistair Hall Design studio tutor
Ian McKnight Technical / design development tutor
Alan Jones Year coordinator / review

Other guest tutors and critics : Helene Binet, Grainne Hassett, Glenn Howells, Prof Adrian Gale, Simon Fraser

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