Cinema The Grand Palais nods to the age of “monumental” cinemas

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French firm Antonio Virga Architecte used perforated bricks and gold metal to wrap a cinema building in Cahors, France, which filters light into the surrounding public square at night.


Antonio Virga Architecte’s goal for the building, named Cinéma Le Grand Palais, was to bring together a complex of historic buildings originally used as a convent and then a military base – whose east wing burned down in 1943.

The project is shortlisted in the civic building category of the Dezeen Awards 2021.

Antonio Virga Architecte designed the Le Grand Palais cinema. The photo is by Pierre Lasvenes

“In recent years, the space between buildings, poorly defined, served as parking,” described the Parisian cabinet. “With the [cinema], the basis of our project was to find the lost urban city that the site owned or could have “, he explained.

“The architecture of the cinema meets old Cahors, the history of the square and the lost concept of old monumental cinemas.”

Golden Cinema in France
The brick box looks like the surrounding buildings

The seven-screen Le Grand Palais cinema, which also includes a museum space, is designed like a box of blank and pale bricks.

It’s an almost eerie copy of the surrounding 19th-century blocks, echoing their height and roof shapes, but with bold golden doors and no windows.

Cinema Brick The Grand Palais
A block has a brick facade

“It was important to have a timeless architectural expression,” the studio explained.

“We wanted something that ties in strongly with the existing – maybe like it’s been around for a long time, avoiding any pastiche or fake old [fake old]. “

Golden metal cinema
The second block is coated with perforated gold metal

As the Le Grand Palais cinema required more space than the brick building would offer, it is enlarged by a more contemporary volume dressed in openwork gilded metal. This is meant to appear as a modern extension of the “timeless” brick form.

“We opted for this ‘false’ extension, a second building in gilded metal, a material that still goes well with the colors of Cahors”, specifies the studio.

Perforations referring to lattice moucharabieh screens, most often found in traditional Islamic architecture, were created in large areas of the brick facade and cover the ironwork.

During the day these perforations allow light to enter the cinema, while at night they are illuminated from the inside, revealing their location on the brick facade as a series of rectangular areas that appear to sparkle.

Double height foyer at Le Grand Palais cinema
The screens are accessible by a double height fireplace

“We tried to play with mass and lightness, an idea also expressed through the facades, with their moucharabieh which” receive “light throughout the day and radiate at night, making the building lighter”, said describes the practice.

Inside, the brick and metal shapes are connected seamlessly, with two cinema screens located on the ground floor and five more screens above.

Blue cinema screen
There are seven screens inside

A double-height foyer and an adjacent café area occupy the front of the brick form, accessed through a series of glass doors signaled by a gold-lined cup made in the facade.

Another recently completed cinema on Dezeen includes the renovation of the historic Blauer Stern cinema in Berlin by Batek Architekten, referencing its original moldings with neon lights.

Other projects short-listed in the civic building category for this year’s Dezeen Awards include an all-wood school in Denmark and a garden-like preschool in Vietnam.

The photograph is by Luc Boegly unless otherwise indicated.


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