If the end is coming, might as well be at the movie, right?
By now, the Hong Kong-based design duo of Ajax Kit Law and Virginia Lung—One Plus Partnership Ltd.—have made their name among the world’s leading cinema designers. Clearly not content with the excitement on the big screen, they’ve devoted their work to continuing it off-screen in the theater environment itself. “Exploded” is one of their most recent projects, a high-concept, high-tech experience at the Wushang Zhongyan Mall International Cinema in Wuhan, China. It was a winner in the 2015 SEGD Global Design Awards.
Inspired by blockbuster films and especially mega-blockbuster disaster movies like Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, One Plus Partnership created a one-of-a-kind immersive environment that could easily convince theater-goers they walked into a real film setting.
Inside the cinema, dramatic dimensional boxes explode from the architecture. Rectangular-shaped concession stands and kiosks are planted at assorted angles, camouflaging themselves against a background that recalls meteors in space or debris in flight after an explosion. On the ceiling above the concession area, a super-scaled rectangular LED box can play movies or ambient dynamic graphics.
Throughout, a black and white color scheme evokes a futuristic setting. White-veined black marble tile flooring adds dimensionality and geometry to the space.
Along the corridor, the disaster-movie vibe lingers. Several three-dimensional white-coated metal pillars slant in different directions, like parts of buildings scattered by explosions. The irregularly shaped pillars crisscross to create a unique visual effect, and some elongate into seating. The lights on the ceiling are also shaped like pillars, leaning in different directions and at varying angles, visualizing the chaotic scenes further.
In the washroom, pillars elongate from the ceiling, minimizing the room space to create a sense of pressure. Several square basins look like the debris after disasters.
Inside the auditorium, the experience continues. Gray three-dimensional boxes of sound-absorbing materials surround the auditorium at various angles, mimicking the effect of concrete rubble strewn after a huge explosion. Some of the boxes enclose light sources that seem to emanate from a sea of darkness.
Jurors in the 2015 SEGD Design Awards were struck by the drama of the space:
“Talk about going against the predictable paradigm of theater design. The complex system of rectangular shapes and forms that project into the interior spaces add tension and real drama in a new and unexpected way. Adding technology to a select number of the angular surfaces provides the perfect level of cinematography to the experience.”
Another juror called the cinema “One part pixelated video game, two-thousand parts C4 explosives. The frozen carbonite-like structures are reminiscent of a James Bond villain’s hideout built in the year 2112. Slicing through the center, an LED monolith hangs in the balance and anchors the room with a vibrant splash of media. If Stanley Kubrick were alive today, his Mindcraft maps would look like this. Bold and powerful placemaking.”
Wushang Zhongyan Mall International Cinema
Client: Hubei Insun Cinema Film Co., Ltd.
Location: Wuhan, China
Design Firm: One Plus Partnership (Hong Kong) Limited
Project Area: 66,740 sq. ft.
Open Date: December 2014
Project Budget: $6.2 million
Design Team: Ajax Law Ling Kit and Virginia Lung
Fabrication: Zhejiang Zili Construction Group Co. Ltd. (auditorium contractor), Wuhan QinXin Construction Group Co., Ltd. (public space contractor)
Photos: Jonathan Leijonhufvud