New frontier in “emotional cinema”

Location: Amsterdam, NL
Designer: DMAA Delugan Meissl Associated Architects, Vienna, Austria
Project: Eye Film Institute
Design: Eye Film Institute
Architects: DMAA Delugan Meissl Associated Architects, Vienna, Austria
Project Team: Sebastian Brunke, Alejandro C. Carrera, Ruben Van Colenberghe, Burkhard Floors, Gerhard Gölles, Daniela Hensler,Thilo Reich, Hendrik Steinigeweg
Project Manager: Philip Beckmann
Client: ING – Real Estate
Location: Amsterdam, NL
Implementation planning: Bureau Bouwkunde Rotterdam BV
Structural engineering: Abt-Adviseurs in Bouwtechniek, Delft
HVAC: Techniplan Adviseurs BV, Rotterdam
Building physics: Peutz bv, Zoetermeer
Main contractor: Bouwbedrijf M. J. de Nijs en Zonen BV
Steel profiles for façades and roofs: Sistema Stabalux, Palladio SpA Treviso (Italia)
Photos: Iwan Baan ©DMAA
Placed midway between the land and the water, the city centre and the outskirts, the project area involves much more than just the space for the building and joining areas together that are not just physically distant from each other, but also culturally.

The idea behind the project for the “Eye Film Institute” in the film theatres and exhibition areas was based on a two themes: profound research into the meaning of ‘theatricality’ for a building that is a place for meeting, culture and entertainment, and town planning considerations of the construction along the riverbanks in the modern expanding area to the north of Amsterdam. Placed midway between the land and the water, the city centre and the outskirts, the project area involves much more than just the space for the building and joining areas together that are not just physically distant from each other, but also culturally. However, that is exactly what the mission of cultural institute should be.

Originally the area was owned by Shell, and used to be completely separated from the city and totally inaccessible. When the company moved to another area, new and vital town activities flourished: offices, residential buildings, new transport infrastructures, and the work culminated with the Eye Film Institute project. The Overhoeks Tower, which stands tall inside the area, is the only element that has been conserved in the project as a reminder of the work that used to be carried out there.

The organisation inside the building and the external, urban areas has raised the overall quality of the public facilities, and the dynamic sequence of the interiors is clearly stated in the outside geometry, with different façades depending on the changing viewpoints.

The crystalline surfaces of the façades reflect and modulate the natural light of the water in the IJ River, altering and changing as it hits the variously inclined surfaces, which are achieved by the use of metal components and large glazed surfaces. In fact, the movement of light through a film is at the basis of the film process celebrated here, and the principle is to translate into architecture the illusion created by the moving light, an illusion that is the foundation for a film. The project layout for the spaces is like a plot, and the architecture the setting.

A walk along the IJ River leads to the main entrance, to continue inside along the southern entirely glass façade to the foyer. Besides the three film theatres, technical rooms, restaurant there is also a large exhibition gallery with modular teaching rooms, which can be joined together when needed.

The building has a mixed structure: reinforced concrete and steel. The reinforced concrete heart is the basement, containing the water control systems (given the nearby river), and the technical distribution core (stairs, lifts, technical rooms). The three upper wings have a steel structure and spread out from the central spine, the counter-balance that they are anchored to with large console structures, giving the impression that these metal elements are suspended wings, seemingly detached from the basement.

The steel façade has a filigree design, that dematerializes and moves away from the building. The façade stanchions and transoms are compact in size but guarantee the correct control and absorption of the stress, caused by the settling and relative movement in the entire construction.

In the spatial organization, the view of the city and surrounding landscape was always a priority, especially in the two main social moments – before and after the film, wanting to develop a new concept of cinema, like an intermediate space that creates added value over and above the usual pleasure of going to see a film.

In a society like ours, which prefers interconnectivity rather than creating new spaces where people can physically meet, going to the cinema still forms a temporary community who are bound by their shared interest. Now, after seeing the film, family and friends can go together to admire the panorama along the river, visit the museum or go to the reading and conference halls.

The common and rather sad idea that going to a multiplex cinema is purely a commercial experience, with a cold reception at the ticket office, where drinks and snacks can be bought, sitting inside a black box to see the film and then finally leave, often through a miserable side entrance, has absolutely nothing to do with the “experience” here.

Going to the cinema can be something different, richer and more stimulating, a “middle space”, where people can actually meet and talk, and the welcoming design of the complex is an invitation to hang around after seeing the film or museum, to meet friends and chat for a while.

However, it is not easy to design spaces that satisfy rational functional needs and also suggest an idea of richness, stimulating the irrational part of our mind, that unconscious dimension that is so hard to understand and design beforehand.

The priority was to guarantee “opening and flexibility”, because the reaction people will have inside the designed spaces is often unfathomable and cannot be totally imagined beforehand. In fact, during the initial design phases, especially for the refreshment areas, discussions with the client and a sample of future users were decisive.

The new building is halfway between the virtual city – the film theatres – and the view of the real city: Amsterdam. EYE offers a dual experience: imaginary and social, physical and real meeting.

In the same way that a good film never emphasizes its aim  too precisely, but provides us with numerous different facets, so this new centre is a transit area, without rigid prepacked definitions as to how it should be used.

Marina Cescon
Acciaio Arte Architettura 54