British Film Institute

Jack Jarrett Architects

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Cinemas are worlds within worlds. The new building helps bring a reaffirmed identity to both the BFI and to Jubilee Gardens, and allow users to enjoy not just just the spectacle of film, but also of the world beyond.

In contrast to the cacophony of high rise buildings surrounding it, this confident, low-slung building provides a point of respite and calm along the hustle and bustle of Queen’s Walk and the South Bank; its immersive dark bronze facade allowing its users to not just inveigle themselves in film, but also to sit and watch the world go by.

The rhythms of the façades change according to view, from low-slung, slow vistas of the passing Thames, to slender colonnades reflecting the elegant trees of Jubilee Park, to a robust, protective elevation to the adjacent roads and railways.

As the viewer ascends to the main auditorium, where the films within are increasingly detached from the everyday reality, so too does the viewer become removed from the distraction of their surroundings. Above, a skylight provides both natural light and a palette cleanser before entering the auditorium.

The grandeur of the main auditorium is reflected in its traditional layout. Plush red seats, laid out in a radial array to afford all viewpoints a benevolent setting, echo this status; the external language of the bronze fins subtly alluded to through the timber acoustic baffles run across the walls and floors.

Other cinemas present new world - the unchallenged expectation of raked seats, of the ‘ordinary’ cinema, fails to provoke, to challenge, to excite and stimulate the mind to see anew. The smallest screenings provide an opportunity to flip this expectation, to provide a whole new set of experiences, with an informal arrangement of sofas and armchairs more akin to a lounge.

The building provides innovative environmental solutions too, using the adjacent Thames as a means of river-cooling and -heating, regulating temperature control. GGBS concrete not only relates the building to the neighbouring South Bank, but is used to provide thermal mass to help store excessive heat.


Location: Jubilee Gardens, London

Status: Competition entry (2015)