Jian Li Ju (Theatre) by Kelsy Alexander
2017 - 2018, Golden A' Interior Space and Exhibition Design Award Winner
The architectural theory of Tschumi's 1976 Screenplays project and many of the formal strategies employed by the architect directly reference the parallels with screen editing and the time-space nature of architecture. Tools such as distortion, repetition and superimposition often used by the great directors of the Film Noir scene have all been applied as a method to soak the interior with all the atmosphere of a 50's Hollywood melodrama. At a time when consumers are becoming more interested in experiences over material objects the Jian li Ju theatre offers a unique experiential narrative.
A new performance space for the The Jianliju Theatre Company nestled in the heart of a complex and historic Shanghai context is an interesting study on typology executed with a concept based on the shaping of light and shadow to create drama and tension. Offering unique spectator experiences where the audience plays an integral role in their performances and productions; the brief demanded a careful architectural approach to the relationships between space, event and movement. The practice, have taken the cinematic expression of film noir and applied its heightened sense of drama to the atmosphere within to create a sequence of contrasting spaces that read as a montage of screenshots from a film reel.
Design Challenges
The practice worked closely with the client to develop an innovative user experience to create the new theatre. Traditional audience experience was challenged; the engagement with cinema questioned and the approach to character, acting and performance was turned upside down. The budget and construction time constraints led to a simple material palette throughout; monotone, minimal with a hint at texture through the treatment of the plaster to give a luster and depth to the spaces. This all provides a backdrop to the lighting strategy integral to the concept of the project. Contrasting light and dark spaces create a balance of relief and tension, curved walls and reflections create disorientating rooms within and eerie light from hidden sources fill narrow corridors with atmosphere and intrigue.
Production Technology
The team took a conceptual approach to the development of the design. Working with drawings, sketches and collage to create the initial atmospheric intent for the space, the spatial form was then tested in 3D model and developed with the client's knowledge on theatre production. Lighting designers were consulted to develop the strategy. The silhouetted figures and shadowy sets of a Michael Curtiz drama is never too far away.
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