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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

CINEMAS ALESIA in Paris, France by MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

 
June 21st, 2014 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

In 2011, the Gaumont-Pathé group decided to restructure the existing building to improve the quality of its cinemas, as well as to properly address the needs and greeting of customers. The general objective of the group is to progressively renew the image of its movie theaters, often very urban and installed on magnificent sites but suffering from a sometimes dated image.

The goal is to make them into beautiful cultural spaces, lively in daytime as much as nighttime and flexible enough so that they can host a diversified program, mixing Film with other cultural events: the image of the Movie Theater in the City must be totally renewed.

Image Courtesy © KDSL

Image Courtesy © KDSL

  • Architects: MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE
  • Project: CINEMAS ALESIA
  • Location: Paris, France
  • Photography: KDSL
  • Surface SDP: 5000 square meters,
  • Anticipated cost of the construction work: 12M€ before tax,
  • Dates: studies: 2001/2014, construction work: 2014/2016
  • CONTRACTING CLIENT: LES CINEMAS GAUMONT-PATHE

Image Courtesy © KDSL

Image Courtesy © KDSL

The objective of the Gaumont-Pathé group is thus to inscribe a new page in their theaters’ architecture which will be contemporary and innovative. The emphasis will be put on a very high quality of comfort, of acoustics and vision in the cinemas themselves, but it will also be put on a very high generosity in terms of reception, hallway spaces and circulation of the public, before and after the movie.

Image Courtesy © KDSL

Image Courtesy © KDSL

The Alésia Cinemas are located near a large crossroads: their main facade, fully west-oriented, is facing the south part of the General Leclerc Boulevard. The building is composed of seven cinemas and located on a relatively deep parcel with a second façade facing the street of Alésia.

The main façade on General Leclerc Boulevard is very large (about 25 meters long), in between two adjoining buildings very different from one another: a housing building of 7 floors on the right and a mixed-use building of two floors on the left.

Image Courtesy © KDSL

Image Courtesy © KDSL

HISTORY OF THE BUILDING

It is on February 4th, 1921 that opened at this location a temple of film, the “Montrouge-Palace” entirely build in reinforced concrete – very daring at the time – with its magnificent unique main cinema of 2800 seats. In 1930, the firm Gaumont will take over the exploitation.

A complete transformation is made in 1951 with a brand new theater that is inaugurated on October 10, 1951: the new cinema of 2000 seats has a large balcony and will keep its beautiful reinforced concrete arcades. The boxes surrounding the stage will disappear.

Image Courtesy © KDSL

Image Courtesy © KDSL

It is also equipped with a wide screen, in order to adapt to the recent trend of movies filmed in a large format, which will lead to the appearance of the famous “CinemaScope” in 1953. During the sixties, the theater loses its name « Palace » and simply becomes the “Montrouge-Gaumont”.

In 1973, like many others, the large main cinema splits into four and the theater becomes the “Gaumont-Sud”. The cinema 1 (900 seats) is built by extending the former balcony, whereas the cinemas 2 and 3 (400 and 300 seats) are located in the former orchestra. The small cinema 4, a new room of 120 seats, is located in the upperstories. In December 1986, a new step in the theater’s life happens with the transition to seven cinemas and especially with a new façade, completely blue, with a planetary look and a giant clap.

Image Courtesy © KDSL

Image Courtesy © KDSL

The new cinemas 4, 5 and 6 (100, 150 and 150 seats) are built by amputating the back of cinema 1 (which capacity is brought back to 520 seats), the cinemas 2 and 3 remain the same and the cinema 7 corresponds to the former cinema 4 of the Gaumont-Sud.

There is an anecdote concerning this clap: for a few months it used to be animated, but after protests in the neighborhoods caused by the noise created by the opening and closing of the clap it was then decided to immobilize it.

Image Courtesy © KDSL

Image Courtesy © KDSL

EXISTING BUILDING OF THE ALESIA MOVIE THEATER

The last renovation goes back to May 26, 2004, with the opening of a new “Gaumont-Alésia” and the complete transformation of all spaces (cinemas, hallways, circulation corridors…) into the new identity of Gaumont Theaters signed by designer Christian Lacroix.

At this occasion, the theater shows a new facade, more sober than its former one.

Of course, the building’s main entrances are situated on the General Leclerc Boulevard. A secondary exit exists on the street of Alésia, but no true walkable path or area is emphasized between those two facades. There is a room on the ground floor that makes joining those two facades impossible, as well as reduces the space considerably. The paths towards the seven cinemas are relatively short, but they lack a clear and unique guiding line.

Image Courtesy © KDSL

Image Courtesy © KDSL

THE ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN
The project is composed of a double objective:

  • First to stage the cinemas in a way that allows to emphasize their volume, both from outside and from inside the building.
  • Then to stage the movies, but this time directly onto the façade. Here, it won’t be the volumes of the cinemas that are expressed, but the movies themselves that will be invited…The facades are coated with a network of LEDs that will become like a canvas for multiple animations: film teasers, cut-out images, colors and abstract shapes can be imagined to make these facades alive.

In this way, the movie theater is looking to find its place again in the city: inside, the architecture will stage unique and spectacular volumes; whereas outside, the architecture will be dressed up in moving images and animations that will tell the story of cinema…

Image Courtesy © MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

Image Courtesy © MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

AN ASSEMBLY OF INTERWINED CINEMAS
The cinemas are assembled together in the project so that almost each of their volume is visible and identifiable. The content of the project is a type of vertical sculpture, where the rooms intertwine one next to the other in an elaborate puzzle.

All the shapes of the bleachers of the inside of the cinemas will be visible from underneath, in order to form beautiful stair-like ceilings.

These ceilings will then be extended into the adjacent space, to create foyers partially made of stairs: the audience is hosted in small amphitheaters which steps go down towards the entrances of the cinemas. These will constitute “off” projection spaces, additional spaces where once again, film is present and multiple. It looks like the orchestra of the cinemas would come further out of the cinemas perimeters, to continue to welcome the audience in an atmosphere filled with of a halo films and projections…

Image Courtesy © MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

Image Courtesy © MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

THE FACADES: PLEATS OF ANIMATED SURFACES
In the urban context of the project, the main façade on the General Leclerc Avenue will play a major role: it is located right at the exit of the metro Alésia, facing a rather large and generous sidewalk. The authorized height is 21 meters on this part of the avenue, whereas the length is about 25 meters. It is then about 500 square meters of façade that rise of this very visible part of the avenue.

In fact the façade is composed of a dozen of vertical threads. Each thread is supporting several facets, successively oriented upwards or downwards.

Image Courtesy © MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

Image Courtesy © MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

In the center part, those large pleats are glazed and then covered with bars of LED evenly displayed, in order to form a large animated net.

On th edges of the façade, the large pleats are opaque and made of a metal cladding, either covered by the same structure coated in LEDs, or simply pleated to reproduce the rhythm of the LEDs.

If the density of LEDs is very high at the center, it becomes lighter as it gets closer to the edges of the façade: the objective is to make the image (or images) lighter and more blurred gradually as we go further away from the center. The project does not aim to  incorporate a rectangular screen, but to show an animation in a poetic way, or almost artistic. Thus he bars
of LEDs are lighter and end with the incorporation of just a few LEDs that give the impression of a light stippling  that shades off into the pleats of the metal cladding.

Image Courtesy © MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

Image Courtesy © MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

The pleats integrate this time discreetly the constraints of the Urban Planning regulations: we do not feel a breach between the lower simple part and the upper part of the façade, fractioned by successive retreats. On the contrary, the project is developed on 12 vertical strips, each following their own pleats. Those pleats can be either independent, to offer a unique image different from the next pleat, or they can form a whole with one image animating all the LEDs.

Image Courtesy © MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

Image Courtesy © MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

The possibilities of animations are multiplied. In the lower part and on its last section, each strip refolds upwards, to form almost horizontal surfaces: this creates a large canopy with an overhang of about 3 meters onto the sidewalk. These panels forming the canopy are also covered in LEDs, to offer the audience this time from close by, different animations that they could almost touch…The audience will feel like they are “going inside the image” as they enter the building…

Image Courtesy © MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

Image Courtesy © MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

During daytime, the project is foremost constituted by those twelve strips which go down from the roof to become a protective and welcoming canopy. The visibility of the LEDs will be delicate, and as we go along towards the center, the animations of the LEDs will be become more The strongest readability will be the one of the pleats in the daylight, and that of a metal fabric encircled with a halo rom the animated LEDs.

Image Courtesy © MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

Image Courtesy © MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

The façade will give a homogenous impression; the folds will be very perceptible. The more one will go towards the lower part, the more the led animations will be visible and luminous. The presence of the metal cladding will be clear and a little shimmering under a somewhat strong natural light in his south-west orientation. At night, the animated LED will be much brighter. But so will be the interior of the building, made also luminous by the amphitheater lights and lights in the circulation spaces. In this way, the LEDs animation will look like it was created on a translucent filter. This double vision, superimposing both the screens of LEDs and the building’s interior spaces will give the project a unique presence on the square of Alésia.

Image Courtesy © MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

Image Courtesy © MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE

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