2016 Inception Award | Studio Picture Theatre

Briony Knowles


Layering the expressed and hidden settings of filmmaking into a venue for a shared cinematic experience.


The project was conceived in response to the inherent contradiction that our societal obsession with film has reduced the value and eminence of its architectural venues. Humans have always used storytelling as a medium of personal and cultural expression. Whether it be for entertainment, education or social comment, our connection to fiction is strong and rooted in the very fabric of our nature. Looking at early cinemas and the predecessors of cinemas, such as opera houses and theatres, the design of the buildings echo the revere of the theatre-going occasion. With the accessibility and mass production of film increasing, people can experience stories without the need to engage in a shared ‘cinematic experience’, which in the past, has given cause to a meaningful social and cultural occasion.

“The irony is palpable; technical access has never been greater, cultural access never weaker.” Beeban Kidron, 2012

The ideas of the ‘cinematic experience’ and the ‘cinematic occasion’ were explored to fulfil the primary goal of re-introducing cinema as an event for social interaction and cultural expression. The scope shifted away from innovating the technology and environments for film screening and instead focussed on how the atmosphere and succession of spaces could affect the overall experience. In a way, this reflected the montage and mise-en-scene which influence our perceived responses to films. Being able to adjust the buildings own mise-en-scene to compliment the affects of the film being screened offered patrons a bespoke and valuable occasion. Thus providing the innovation required to cater for the demands of a 21st century audience who seek an experience different to that of watching a film from home, alone.

The psychological journey when going to the cinema was broken down into four montages; anticipation, interaction, immersion and reflection. Not all of which take place solely in the venue itself. This spatial metaphor informed the planning of the venue and as a result, was both immersive and functional in its design. The interior architecture, material selection and mise-en-scene was informed by the juxtaposition between the different environments within a film studio. Primarily the areas which are describes as ‘behind the scenes’, ‘on set’ and the ‘studio fabric’.

As the montage for the experience of film, immersion took on a functional role, allowing the purpose of the theatres to guide their interior design. The montages for interaction became the sets where individuals could play their roles in the larger social scene. The mise-en-scene reflected that of a film set and are bright, polished and dynamic, with characters able to interact with and move elements as they need. The montages of anticipation and reflection became the transition spaces which link the venue horizontally and vertically. From this interstitial space, the focus is drawn to the on-set social spaces with views and vistas scattered throughout, framing the scenes beyond. Behind-the-scenes is made up of a free-standing scaffold structure inserted within the existing building. The atmosphere is dark, discouraging interaction and drawing more attention to the light spaces beyond. It is the juxtaposition of the on-set and behind-the-scenes areas which enhance the individuals journey overall experience of the occasion.

Two adjacent early 20th century industrial buildings were chosen as the site for the project. The heritage listed facades, historic significance and raw qualities of the buildings offer an even stronger opportunity for Placemaking within the rapidly developing city. Conserving as much of the original building fabric as possible, the on-set ribbon, behind-the-scenes scaffold and cinema volumes, layer into the brick walls which act as the film studio itself, encompassing all other areas.