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Experiental Architecture

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What is “Experiential Architecture” and how does it relate to the Cinema Industry?

WIKIPEDIA outlines Experience architecture (XA) as the art of articulating a clear user story or journey through information architecture, interaction design or experience design that an end-user navigates across products and services offered by the client or as intended by the designer.

If this is true, all cinemas could or maybe should be considered experiential architecture.

Cinema is defined as the art of simulating experiences to communicate ideas, stories, perceptions, feelings, beauty or atmosphere through the use of recorded imagery and sound.  If we expand the ideas of what is being portrayed on the screen to what could be experienced in your facility the potential to create experiences is limitless.  We know architecture has an emotional impact on humans, the question is what kind of emotions do you want to create for your users?  How can we collaborate to create memories?  Experiential architecture is design that evolves and responds over time, the notion of a holistic approach to the design.  If architecture can connect emotionally with its occupants, then the message can be felt more deeply thus more readily leaving a lasting impression on your customers.

Designing for the traditional senses:  sight (vision), hearing (audition), taste (gustation), smell (olfaction) and touch (somatosensation). If you pay close attention while designing to sensory components the result will create an environment that is felt and memorable.  Maybe memory is the other sense we need to capture?  Perhaps it is out of these components that a great building can simply stimulate someone into making a decision.  Consumers identify their needs and wants, collect information, evaluate options and make decisions to purchase all of which are influenced by environmental factors some of which we can influence through design.  Customer experience from product, service, content, touchpoints, pricing, facility, sensory engagement which should all be considered and described in the design.  Does the design express a coherent platform for the experience?  Do the experiences complement and enhance each other or do they conflict and detract from each other?

Experience starts as you approach your destination and the approach forms the path of preparation for the customer.  This can start as early as when patrons log on to your website or enter the parking lot of your facility.  It all relates to the complete approach of creating a memorable experience for your guests.  One that they want to choose again and again.

Design Factors

Path

What kind of path do you want to create for your customers?

Straight path, path around spaces, free path, path through spaces, transitional path, changing vistas along a path – the path provides the opportunity for interaction between spaces.  Knowing your preferences allows designers the ability to help create the correct path to better suit your business model and generate more revenue from the end-users.  For instance, if we know your model is to capture revenue from the patrons in the lobby by passing a multitude of options one might create a layout that resembles a casino floor.  However, if your goal is to get the patron in the theatre seat so they can begin ordering food and beverage, we might design a central corridor that leads directly to the auditorium door.  Different design elements are needed along these paths to generate the intended experience.

Space

Spatial experiences is the visual perception at the human eye level.  Items placed above or below this level may be perceived differently.  It is similar to a path, movement through horizontal space is very different than movement through vertical space.  So it is very important for the design to keep the experience moving by shifting the visual axis along a horizontal path.  The use of barriers or obstacles provides areas to rest or contemplate which may be essential for impulse purchasing.  Architecture can compose the whole experience through the perception of space and the space becomes alive giving your customer a sense of presence in your facility.

Color

Colors of interior walls can influence the imagination.  Every color elicits a different and unique emotional response with its viewer (this is also very dependent on culture):

  • Yellow gives the impression of bright and intense, as people associate it with the sun.
  • Red evokes accuracy and attention to detail since people associate red with danger, which makes you more alert.
  • Blue creates a relaxed state allowing the imagination to roam since we associate blue with the ocean and sky.
  • Green suggests nature and organic quality, it is the most balanced color which equates to stability.
  • White expresses openness, with a message of purity and sterile.

*Each specific color can change when modified in their lightness factor and saturation (light to dark).

Building Components

  • Ceiling heights also affect how we think, low ceilings help focus one’s thoughts while high ceiling promote free thinking.  It’s the difference between “item-specific” versus “relational” processing.
  • Flooring materials impact how we navigate through spaces.  Carpet can increase the duration of people’s gathering time. 
  • Lighting (both natural and artificial) affects mood.  Sunlight improves memory, dim lighting helps people relax.
  • Furniture impacts socialization.  Furniture organized in small groupings encourages interaction.  Semi-circle arrangements increase participation. Straight-line configurations encourage independence.

The spaces around us can influence and enhance our daily lives.  Considering the design as a major component to enhance the overall experience thus creating memorable experiences will create a greater value for your users.  Giving the customer more than expected through experiential architecture makes it easier to consume and spend at a higher price point.  A similar model for coffee purchased from Starbucks versus McDonalds – atmosphere and creativity matter more than ever to consumers in today’s society obsessed with consumption.

Experiential architecture is on the rise and today’s consumers demand emotional connections.  Movies are emotionally driven so leverage that cinematic experience on the screen to your facilities architecture to shape the customers’ experience.  Human-centric design is paramount to your brand’s story, and good collaborative design will make your facility a preferred destination point.

– Chad H. Philhour

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…

(more…)