LA Cineplex

Studio / Spring 2020 / Year 5 / Rice Architecture / Professor Ajay Manthripragada

  • Movie theaters (18 theaters, 2,073 seats), box office (x2), concessions, lobby, public deck
  • Arcade, bowling alley, billiards hall, comedy club / karaoke bar, gallery
  • Underground parking garage

Mat-buildings have been defined within the discipline as having general order, compositional flexibility, and woven horizontality, producing a tartan-like fabric of implied systematic growth that privileges the horizontal. The project, LA Cineplex, is informed by these qualities of mat-building for the design of a mat cineplex, sited in Los Angeles.

Compositionally, the cineplex is a checkered gradient. A series of walls infilled with a checkerboard of cinemas produces a plaid plan of theaters and courtyards. This weave of ticketed theaters with open public plazas generates new forms of social association and collective space. A checkerboard of inside and outside, dark cinemas and daylit courtyards, intertwine movie theaters with public plazas for a mat cineplex. The cineplex becomes a “horizontal weave of programmatic and circulatory elements, a play of solids and voids, stabilized within a legible geometric order” (Timothy Hyde, How to Construct an Architectural Genealogy).

The two levels of the cineplex, ground lobby and elevated deck, are connected by punctured voids. One of the primary problems of the mat is that of light and air reaching the depths of mat-buildings, presenting a proportional typological question. In this case, the perforation of the checkerboard brings natural light into the depths of the lobby. Meanwhile, programs such as the movie theaters, arcade, billiards hall, bowling alley, and comedy club / karaoke bar are well suited to the mat-building type, as they are all programs that embrace dimness and darkness. These entertainment programs, along with lobby programs such as box office and concessions, occupy the stepped underbelly of the theaters above, such that the ceiling is experienced as a stepped landscape.

Overall, the checkered patterning of the cineplex plays with the part-to-whole understanding of the project and its mat-ness. The checkerboard is a unifying device yet it reinforces discrete parts as well. The project’s formal cohesion and compositional clarity facilitates the perception of the whole as an independent entity with simultaneous differentiation of parts within: it is both a checkerboard (whole) and checkered cinemas and courtyards (discrete parts). Like Hyde describes in How to Construct an Architectural Genealogy: the mat “demands a legible and orderly system . . . provided by a grid or another regular geometric pattern, answering the call for labyrinthe clarity.”
© Lara Hansmann 2020