Located in a former industrial complex in Mexico City, the cinema is an exploratory step in the transition from streaming to a physical realization of MUBI. The project’s structural elements, from conception to construction, belong simultaneously to the cinematic and architectural syntax.
The main need is to overcome the dogmatic form of “the box” as a module and the ordering principle of a cinema. Exploding the spaces and designing a bridge-shaped structure, created around a void—an evolution of the idea of a shell—responds to the surrounding architectural context of Mexico City. The structure’s body is reduced to a minimum; the sloping facade that is visible from the street is itself a screen as well as the entrance, as is the rear wall. The side walls are small screens that support the structure, without closing it—becoming additional lenses for the external view of the surrounding buildings.
The cinema is being designed by emerging European architecture practice Armature Globale in Milan, and follows deep conversations with MUBI on the needs, physical technologies, and future transformation of environments engineered to host visual media. The open structure of the cinema is conceived as a platform for the architectural materialization of video streams. And as a design model—architecture integrated with contemporary forms of image projection—becoming a prototype of “engineered sculpture.”
Observed from an aerial perspective, the building shares the same regular geometric typology of the surrounding blocks; and to understand the structural difference, it is necessary to walk through it and go around it. In fact, the cinema responds to the street line with its sloping facade, which also acts as a shield for the exploded structure of the building.
The break with ordinary architecture standards is only revealed on closer inspection. The upper part of the sloping facade features an irregular striated surface. This references a photographic work by German artist Sigmar Polke (1941-2010) from his “Palermo” series, made during a visit to the Catacombe dei Cappuccini in 1976, which depicts in black and white a close-up of a skeleton wearing an overcoat. Polke thus becomes a Trojan horse to sculpt the surface of the facade, making it an expressive form, as would happen in painting. Rather than constructing images, Polke has always been concerned with their evolution. In his oeuvre—particularly in his paintings on transparent materials—certainties based on reference to a fixed point of view are immediately confronted with their opposites, generating environments that deny all notions of order and dominance. Thus emerges the deeper meaning of multiple perspectives in Polke’s translucent images.
Consistently, in the Mexico City building, the presence of four different screens augments and increases the projection possibilities. And the cinema’s potential to exploit perspectives, is also increased by making the modular structure of the seats flexible. Through a process of design and engineered sculpture of the materials—such as concrete—it is possible to refer, analyze, and connect to Mexico City architecture, defining a topology that has nothing to do with decoration. The aim is to create a cinema that is not a closed environment, but a multifunctional structure that exploits the unlimited possibilities provided by the four screens. While the two main screens belong to the traditional format of projection, intended to show mainly feature films, the two lateral surfaces are designed for more experimental formats, such as video art and installations. In this system, the perceptive coexistence of film content and the physicality of the walls of the adjacent buildings is crucial. In this Forward Thinking Multiplex Environment, each screen can be perceived as an autonomous projection surface. But at the same time, what is of crucial importance and ultimately constitutes its uniqueness, is the possibility of using the different screens simultaneously and separately, multiplying perspectives. The result, rather than a total projection environment, is a space in which it is possible to project separate and selected content—like a library of images—that is confronted with external space.
Location: Mexico City
Architecture: Armature Globale
Image Credits: Armature Globale, courtesy of MUBI