Quad

A compelling graphic identity by Paula Scher of Pentagram drove the redesign for an independent movie house in Greenwich Village. Photography courtesy Pentagram

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The Quad Cinema in New York’s Greenwich Village was the first multiscreen movie theater in the city when it opened in 1972. The four-screen theater remained a standby downtown, but became a bit dowdy after 40 years. New York real estate developer and film producer Charles S. Cohen purchased the theater in 2014 and initiated a complete interior gut renovation with a concept design led by Paula Scher of Pentagram. The Quad reopened earlier this year as an entirely refreshed, culturally dynamic home for independent films and classics.

Known for producing compelling environmental graphics and identity design, Scher had completed a number of projects for Cohen’s company, Cohen Media Group, in recent years. So it was natural for Cohen to turn to Scher and her Pentagram colleagues Rory Simms and Sarah McKeen for the Quad concept design. Starting with the creation of bespoke square letterforms for the four letters in the word “quad,” Pentagram developed a typographic identity, a new logo, and an entire design vocabulary that would guide the interior transformation. The typography is used for all of the theater’s signage and displays.

“The overall custom design work that Paula developed is consistent and runs throughout every aspect of the Quad environment,” says Cohen. “It is a complete design statement of timeless and classic quality that comes together to create a unique environment and experience.”

The interior design was a collaboration between Pentagram and Projects Design Associates (PDA), led by Martin Vahtra. Yonkers, New York–based Leder-Luis Architectural Design was the architect of record. The theater’s new, clear identity begins outside, where Scher’s Quad logo appears on the custom-designed metal overhang above the 13th Street sidewalk. That overhang, which also has digital signage on its sides to display information on the films, extends inside and also serves as a vent.

A straightforward color scheme of red, black, and white is striking as seen throughout the lobby. For the Quad Bar in front, Pentagram specified the custom mosaic tile floor and PDA designed the rest of the bar elements, including painted wainscoting, a tin ceiling, and varied seating. The two firms collaborated on a red powder-coated steel reception desk—for ticketing, concessions, and merchandise— that reflects the “C” logo of Cohen Media Group in plan. Behind the desk, digital signage on a red wall displays film showtimes. At one end of the lobby, an array of 32 flat screens depicts five different 20-minute-long video sequences that Pentagram created with films from the Cohen Film Collection intercut with information on the theater and showtimes.

In the theaters, which seat 430 in total, walls have acoustic panels covered with fabric to absorb sound. By happenstance the number of theaters is four, matching the number of letters in the word “quad.” With that in mind, each theater ceiling is adorned with one of the letters—Q, U, A, and D—as a linear LED strip.

Scher, who lives nearby, is proud that the Quad design is a significant refresh for an authentic piece of Greenwich Village. “The Quad is a jewel, and it has history,” Scher says. “It’s an environment that is built out of its identity, informed by the typography. It’s very sexy—an experience.”