Architecture is a political act, by nature. It has to do with the relationships between people and how they decide to change their conditions of living. And architecture is a prime instrument of making that change – because it has to do with building the environment they live in, and the relationships that exist in that environment.
— Lebbeus Woods
It all begins with an image. A picture of a significant spot in the city life of Moscow. Behind a thick layer of advertisement and scenography, lies one of the largest cinemas of Europe: The Pushkin Cinema Hall.
The current state of the building is far from deserving, considering it is host of the Moscow International Film Festival; but even if we cleansed the building from all the artifacts and scenery, the overall conditions would remain doubtful and uncomfortable. Situated in the middle of a fairly large green belt, the theater and the contiguous buildings are hardly enhancers of the public space; they behave more like barriers between open spaces.
Like the theater, other buildings have been placed and demolished on that strip. The green belt that is now severed was once the outskirt of the city walls (The Gate of the White City). This undetermined and ambiguous void, planned for military maneuvers, could transform into vast markets and meeting places. It was also a place for protest and social celebration.
Today, these former empty spaces have settled for streets, unofficial parking lots, poor walkways and a couple of relatively new buildings. Still, the remaining square continues to act as a major meeting point, a place of symbolic relevance for the city of Moscow.
The aim of transformation
If the void represents a more valuable asset than the material that occupies the space in terms of historical, social and cultural relevance, then destruction can become a mean for the preservation of historical heritage.
Some streets are closed and others narrowed in order to physically connect Pushkin Square with the park. Only the theater is preserved because it can serve the purpose of being an instigator of social activity. The real value of the theater lies on its ability to host the event.
The new face of Pushkin Cinema is occlusion. A black corian prism is suspended on top of the cinema. Unlike the theater itself, its purpose is not of a pragmatical nature. It conceals the theater so that its presence on Pushkin Square would not act as an over-privileged individual in a place of collective significance. The building is then perceived not as a cinema, but as an alien figure reflecting the environment while floating in the middle of the square… an anonymous mausoleum containing the archeological vestiges of a soviet theater… a monument to memory.
While the outside is shaped as a pure and nameless volume, echoing the empty space surrounding it, the inside is impregnated by the presence of the theater. The material of the interior space mutates to generate an atmosphere for the nucleus: the outer foyer. Sunlight is projected to the inside of the box through optic fiber, creating hybrid spotlights (natural and artificial light). Translucent and textured lanterns that resemble the plasticity of the organic emerge from the inner skin of the box and illuminate the theater and staircase .