Interiors Awards 2015: Entertainment

Photography by Jonathan Leijonhufvud

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Coastal Cinema and Coffee Shop
Designer: One Plus Partnership
Client: Coastal Group
Location: Wuxi, China

“Avoiding the expected visual and thematic clichés, the designers chose to abstract the topography of the coastal shoreline in a thoroughly modern and elegant way. This shifts the paradigm of what it means to go to the movies.” -Jury

Defying concerns over slowing growth in China, retailers and mall developers there continue to build and expand. One example is the expansive new shopping center Coastal City, which opened last year in Wuxi, a city west of Shanghai. Developed by Chinese firm Coastal Group, the 7.5-million-square-foot mall includes international retailers such as H&M, Tommy Hilfiger, Mango, Zara, Calvin Klein Jeans, Starbucks, and Muji, as well as diverse food and entertainment options, which aim to draw Chinese consumers out of their compact apartments to socialize and shop in an array of well-designed spaces. Among the most popular places to meet and mingle in this development is the Coastal Cinema and Coffee Shop designed by Hong Kong–based One Plus Partnership led by designers Virginia Lung Wai Ki and Ajax Law Ling Kit.

Coastal Group tapped the firm to create a dynamic cinema and coffee shop that would engage the consumer as the city shifts away from its industrial past. “Wuxi is a thriving city of flowing waterways and rivers that feed into the mighty East China Sea,” says Lung Wai Ki, adding that it is also a place “where the hopes and dreams for a glittering future are being built on a proud and ancient past.”

While Americans have become more accustomed to bland or dated movie multiplexes, perhaps China is the country in which movie cinema interiors are being designed today with the greatest level of modern detail. Chinese retailer developers such as this one implement modern design to stimulate the senses and elicit excitement. “The business climate for this type of project is booming in China,” says Law Ling Kit. “With the higher living standard, both clients and film lovers pay more attention to the design of their cinemas.” 

Armed with a mandate to create a stunning, warm setting, the architects turned to the coastal geography and the flow of water for inspiration in designing the 58,540-square-foot cinema, which includes eight theaters. To take this concept beyond “just blue and green—the two colors that one would associate with the ocean,” Lung Wai Ki says, they studied “the dynamic interface between the ocean and the land, particularly wave action.” Their efforts resulted in an exhilarating-yet-soothing environment that stokes the imagination while calming the senses.

Like rolling ocean waves, undulating walls made of powder-coated metal slats seem to flow through the cinema lobby and ease visitors toward the ticket counters and coffee shop beyond. Atop a hardwood floor, ticket counters—made with marble cut into random jagged forms—sit like massive rocks washed up along a sandy shore. These materials were selected not only for their simplicity and beauty, but also to meet the client’s request for a durable and easy-to-maintain facility. 

As a counterpoint to the energy of the mall, the designers aimed to create spaces that would serve as quiet places to relax and regroup before or after seeing a film. By capturing the essence of the ocean’s flow in a meticulous blend of natural shapes, forms, and beautiful high-quality materials, the interior entices one to linger. “Shoppers find the Coastal Cinema and Coffee Shop to be an oasis of calm and comfort,” says Lung Wai Ki, “where they can withdraw from the tide of bustling humanity, relax in elegant, tranquil surroundings, and let the atmosphere wash over them.”