Nanchang cinema complex's award-winning design is inspired by books

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 January, 2015, 6:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 January, 2015, 6:00am

Even in the era of the e-reader, you still open a book to find black print on a white background. Films, by contrast, are usually in colour. But at Nanchang Insun International Cinema, in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, these lines are blurred.

Hong Kong design firm One Plus Partnership takes cinema-goers through a library and into the actual pages of a book in their design for a film venue.

The project, completed in July 2013, has already won an impressive 24 international and Hong Kong design awards, and was a finalist in the Golden Pin Design Award 2014, which celebrates products created for the Chinese-speaking market.

It's not the first cinema complex designed by One Plus, which was established in 2004 by married partners Ajax Law Ling-kit and Virginia Lung. But it is probably their most ambitious. (The couple has also designed the Times Square cinemas in Causeway Bay, and cinemas at Tsim Sha Tsui shopping mall The One.)

"We have a theme for each project," Lung says, noting the firm's ethos of "original, theme-driven design". To get to this cinema you walk through a bookshop, so a narrative involving both emerged.

"In words and pictures, though different media, books and films strive towards the same goal - to inspire and ignite our imagination," Lung says. "Yet they are entwined. To make a remarkable film, the creative work of the scriptwriter plays an important part."

The journey into the story begins at the lobby - the cinema entrance - which is a "sea of whiteness" where pieces of paper hanging on the wall "resemble the masterpieces written by the scriptwriters," Lung says. Black-and-white film posters, hanging on the "pages" like artworks, give the impression of print on paper.

The cashier's counter reaffirms the illusion. It appears to be reams of paper stacked on the floor, but is actually made of sculptured Corian.

In the next "chapter" - the hallway - the background switches from white to a striking black, which engulfs the whole space. Words in different fonts and colours are scattered against the black, to form dialogue from classic films. This is another example of the harmonious interchange between the two media, Lung says.

"The film dialogues, appearing in the form of words, remind us of their natural coexistence. They are so different in nature, yet they both deliver encrypted messages."

This leads to the waiting room, where two marble pillars can be interpreted as the spine of a book. The lighting scheme was inspired by nature, the source of a book's raw material.

Random-looking and sculpture-like, its design involves green LED cylinders which poke from the ceiling like inverted clumps of bamboo. This proved to be one of the project's main design challenges, Lung says.

"Achieving a random appearance is actually hard to do. Because the LED cylinders couldn't be fixed in place until the last minute, each piece had to be adjustable," she says,

The cinema, which cost 14 million yuan (HK$17.5 million), has black doors which look like frames, resembling, the designers say, "the image of black-dyed pages". Slivers of light peeping through the gaps reflect on the floor and the ceiling, reminiscent of the light-and-shadow effects of film.

Via a bookshelf pattern on the cinema carpet, "the aura of books still lingers on the perimeter while audiences are enjoying the film", Lung says.

Nanchang Insun International Cinema won the Iconic Award (Germany) in October 2014. "We love the 'big idea' of linking books and cinema," a juror noted. "Visitors enter the world of cinema through the memory of famous dialogue and the written word. This solution bridges media."