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Figures in Blankness

The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), Los Angeles, CA

Our project for a theater in Chelsea, Manhattan is about using an internal figure. Our choice to use this figure was made for two reasons:

Firstly, the figure enables us to manage the jump from urban scale of Manhattan to the more intimate theaters inside. Our envelope relates to the urban scale, while the theaters inside offer a more human scale.

Secondly, the figure offered us a way to design and control the spatial experience inside. The figure and envelope began as two separate systems. Our project evolved further to be a more integrated system between the figure and the envelope, resulting in one figure struggling against a second figure with the collision between the two defining our spaces. The internal figure can gently push the envelope or press against it until it results in a break. The interior figure can either break through, nest, or completely envelope the theaters.

The project takes cues from the Koolhaasian blank skyscraper, our nondescript exterior enclosing different “worlds” on each floor. Thus, we wanted to accentuate the entry experience to each of the three theaters, each theater having its own grandiose entry, each with a significant stair and viewpoint, as if the visitor is entering a stand alone theater.

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Russell Thomsen


with Greg Polvi


December 2012

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