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It’s a Brick (movie) House……

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Malco Powerhouse at Main St.

Sustainability is a common theme we hear repeatedly in the news and in our profession.  As an architectural engineering design firm, we enthusiastically promote the adaptive reuse of structures over a complete teardown and starting over.  For clients, it is a romantic endeavor to bring an existing structure back to its original glory.  We see this everywhere in the US including all around our office in downtown Kansas City, MO.  From experience, the romance can be oversimplified as the effort is a big investment in time, cost, and learning, as each project is original with its own set of unique challenges.

Located in the redeveloping South Main Historic District near downtown Memphis, the new Malco Powerhouse Cinema is a project that combines and incorporates a former 1914 railyard brick-clad power station into a unique gathering place that includes a premium 7 screen boutique cinema. The original power station was constructed by the Illinois Central railway to provide steam and electric power to the central station located across the tracks.  Restoration of key historical elements of the existing powerhouse was essential for the building’s historic preservation.  Strict oversight was provided by the State Historic Preservation Office to monitor and maintain the look of the building.  The old historic 60’ tall smokestack was preserved. Hundreds of small panes of glass were replaced in the existing steel windows. Tons of existing brick were salvaged and reused repeatedly throughout the existing building.  There were two different types of brick: an unfinished brick for interior use and a finished brick for the exterior. 

Undoubtedly the beauty of the powerhouse was the brick.  The brick was unique not just in color but also dimension and edge profile.  It had aged very well and the construction detailing 100 years ago was beautiful.  Malco wanted to keep or reuse as much of the brick as possible.  The Memphis Historic Preservation Committee also wanted as much of the existing brick and structure to remain to maintain the history and beauty of the past in the gentrifying area.  The challenge was that the structure and configuration of the old building was not capable of supporting a state-of-the-art auditorium-based layout.  However, with some creative thinking the old edifice was incorporated for ticketing, dining and as a gathering area.

TK worked with Malco to create an environment that would meet the requirements of the historical committee for preservation, while still fulfilling the needs of Malco as an operational space for the new theatre.  The decision was made to emphasize the beauty of the powerhouse and have it as the main entry point.  A “lean-to parts shed” existed on the south side of the building and was removed to expose the main structural wall.  This façade would become the new focal point for blending old and new as people entered the building.

The brick from this lean-to was salvaged to be reused at other locations in the project.  Each brick had to be removed by hand.  Every brick was going to be needed including the broken ones.  Approximately 1,500 finished exterior brick and 1,500 unfinished interior brick were reused throughout the project.  The new entrance to the lobby and the ticket booth reused the finished brick while the unfinished brick was used around the fireplace, entrances, and the transition space from the seating area to the concession area.

There are many unique and beautiful aspects to the renovated powerhouse, but if you ever happen to visit, be sure to take a special look at the rebuilt pilaster at the box office.  With the removal of the south wall, which was providing the load path in the event of a seismic event, a built-up steel portal frame was created to resist the loading while still being minimal in size.  This allowed the contractor to cover the frame with the painstakingly salvaged brick, creating a beautiful backdrop for the box office and entry to the lounge.  The new craftsmanship blends into the existing and you can’t tell where the original building transitions to new.

As with any renovation, there were many challenges; some expected and some not so much.  A lot of passionate people made this project happen.  Now you can enjoy the experience that you just can’t get except in a building that is more than a century old. 

Conversations at the Heart of CinemaCon

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May 2019

by Theresa English, TK Architects International

Come on a journey with me over miles of carpet and up escalators and down escalators and maybe more carpet too….oh wait it’s just the walk to CinemaCon.  I’m sure my health insurance is wondering if I attached my Garmin to the neighborhood dog because my step count was easily triple my norm.  At the end of that long carpeted journey what one finds is great conversations.  For TK this year CinemaCon was ultimately about conversations.  We had excellent discussions with numerous clients about their current and future projects.  We also met other attendees from all corners of the exhibition business, and the world.  Chatting with first time attendees is always enjoyable to learn what brought them to the show.  We were able to visit with many of our vendor friends whom we rely on closely as valuable team members on shared projects.  All these conversations created a positive energy that seemed to hum across the convention and trade show floor. (more…)

YEAR IN REVIEW 2018

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December 2018

On behalf of the entire TK Team we would like to thank all our clients, partners and supporters for another wonderful year! We wish you and your loved ones a very happy holiday season and an amazing and successful year ahead! We love what we do and are looking forward to sharing our knowledge and almost 40 years of experience with you. We look forward to working with all of you again in the upcoming year!

2018 was truly wonderful for TK! Here is our year at a glance… (more…)

“Destination Entertainment: Preserving the social experience in a streaming world” in Film Journal

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September 2018

An article by Sr. Principal, Mike Cummings, was featured in October issue of FilmJournal magazine, titled “Destination Entertainment: Preserving the social experience in a streaming world”.

In the article, Mike Cummings discussed the view of the cinema going as a socially infused entertainment experience. He talked about the benefits of movie-going in this modern world of media streaming as a fun and pleasant way to get away, socialize and enjoy the surrounding atmosphere. See how well thought-out design and latest technology tie into the successful process.

For more details, please follow the link to FilmJournal web version of the article or view the article in print in October issue of Film Journal: http://www.filmjournal.com/features/destination-entertainment-preserving-social-experience-streaming-world

By Mike Cummings, TK Architects International September 17, 2018

Many times, when I meet someone or talk with friends and am describing my work—primarily designing movie theatres—people will ask me: Aren’t movie theatres going away? I inevitably start with talking about people dining out even though they have a kitchen in their home, and the fact that collective storytelling is part of our human experience dating back to cavemen gathering around a fire. Usually this stream of conversation stops, but there is a whole lot more to the story…

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