Curtain goes up on Astoria's Temple to Film
The Museum of the Moving Image opened this Saturday after undergoing a $67m renovation at the hands of New York architect Thomas Leeser. The newly expanded building, now twice its previous size, includes a new amphitheatre, a courtyard garden that will open in the spring, a new exhibition gallery and an expanded education centre. But beyond adding new spaces, Leeser has dramatically transformed the museum experience by bringing visitors closer to its subject matter.
Not surprisingly then, visitors to the new building will find themselves enveloped by a sea of viewing screens and moving images as they make their way through the building. This voyage, which has been skillfully choreographed by Leeser to simulate the experience of movie-going, (particularly the anticipation and the magic one experiences as they are transported into this imaginary world) is a major reason why visitors to the new building will likely return.
Visitors will encounter their first screen at the building’s entrance. Here a newly designed portal of mirrored and transparent glass with the words ‘Museum of the Moving Image’ in 3ft high letters beckons visitors into a re-designed lobby with a polyester floor in a cool light blue hue. From the lobby, visitors will pass along a 50ft long wall coated with screen paint - a surface for projecting videos of works that will change according to curatorial vision.
From the lobby visitors can access a new 264-seat theatre through one of two tunnels finished in Yves Klein blue or take a staircase to the exhibition gallery. The theatre, which was inspired by the spaceship in Stanley Kubrick’s movie 2001, is designed as a capsule for the imaginary voyage of movie-going. It’s ceiling and walls are again covered in a woven felt of sensuous, vibrant Yves Klein blue, which slips under the stadium-rake seating to give the audience a sensation of floating.
To the left of the lobby is located a grand staircase that widens into a 1,700 sq ft video-screening amphitheatre before terminating in a new gallery. A final nod to the viewing screen is encountered at the rear of the building. Here Leeser has skinned the building in crisp triangular panels, the thinness of which refers to the infinite thinness of the moving image.
The Museum’s new building is a fitting tribute to screen culture. Thomas Leeser has brought a renewed energy to this important cultural New York institution and captured the magic of the movies in a forward-thinking structure.
Update: The Museum of Moving Image went on to win the 2013 Red Dot Design Award.