This is a working post… after shitting the bed at my mid review, I’m trying to edit up a new thesis statement.
I’m kinda tired of trying to be smart, so I’m going to write this more conversationally. When I first presented my thesis I described the proposal as mostly driven by aesthetics and the criticism from my committee was that I wasn’t making an academic argument. But it seems like everything generated by this postmodern approach could be made more efficiently by modern, minimalist poo: less material, less effort, less everything. Well, “less is a bore“. The only real reason to make all this extra effort is because it just looks better. I like pretty stuff. And so does everybody else. We’re all nostalgic for the days when craft and not cleverness was king. Anyway… here goes again…. This time I’m going to try and be more matter-of-fact. This is not just the intro statement but the presentation script…
In 1914, a small theater was constructed on Broadway Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In the 1920s it was converted into a cinema and for twenty years successfully operated during the golden age of movie palaces. From 1950’s to 1970’s the theater gradually declined, eventually showing grind-house Mexican wrestling movies and pornography. After closing in 1977, the theater space was re-purposed as a ballroom and then a restaurant. Today the building holds a assorted retail stores, several apartments, and a five thousand square foot 99 cent store. This thesis proposes to reinstate the theater as it was during its heyday in the 20’s and 30’s, as an ornate movie palace.
To create this contemporary movie palace, this thesis uses an aesthetic which encourages nostalgia, that, through reference to the past, can endear a design to a community, mitigate programmatic dischord, and provide unusual formal qualities. To find this nostalgic beauty, this thesis will revisit antique typologies like that of the movie palace and nickelodeon, out-dated architectural techniques like poche and pastiche, and forgotten forms of ornament. Iconography and ornamentation, rather than being mere decoration of the interior, form a membrane which acts as a cultural interface to site the building in a strong, diverse, and ultimately stubborn community.
Since the original drawings for the theater have been lost or destroyed, the first attempt to create a movie palace was merely to copy an existing theater of approximately the same size and place it into the site. [I’m going to make these graphic better…]
The major problem with this approach is that the theater is too large for the community. In the 20’s and 30’s Williamsburg was at the height of its population density and prosperity. Today, this area of South Williamsburg is poor and only recently is making the same gains in population that we see elsewhere in Brooklyn. It cannot support a 500 to 1000 seat theater. In addition, an ornate movie palace wastes both structure and space in order to maintain its appearance. Re-examining how theaters like this one were originally constructed gave a clue how to proceed.
In the old theater, the poche space wastes both framing material and space. By inserting secondary program like apartments or retail into the poche space, whose structure can support lightweight ornament, we also gain the pro forma that might support a large “public” project like a movie theater. Given this logic the building could be read as a theater where the poche space is a midrise apartment building. Or, when we reverse the relationship, a midrise apartment building with a theater as its circulation space.
Since the theater and circulation are the same we can address the problem of the theaters scale. Movie theaters make money by having multiple spaces for different movies to show at the same time. A design that had several smaller movie palaces would be more successful than one with a single theater space. Here are some diagrams exploring how to balance theater, poche space, and circulation. [edit these…halfway done on my laptop]
1.) There are three major theaters…
3.) Offset Ornament (How a 3-5 foot EPS foam offset turns ornament into architecture and vice versa…)