Renzo Piano, the Pritzker holder Italian architect was born in September 1937. In 1981, the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) was established. At present, they have more than 150 employees with offices in Paris, Genoa, and New York. The work of Renzo Piano has been described as “high-tech” and “strong postmodernism.” He has many different styles, as seen by the Morgan Library and Museum’s refurbishment and enlargement in 2006. The interior is at once wide, bright, contemporary, natural, ancient, and new (Craven, 2019). Let’s look at one such example of his works.

Imax Cinema Theatre, Potsdamer Platz, Berlin

Project: 1992
Construction: 1996

Numerous contests for proposals to rebuild Berlin’s center were organized not long after Germany’s reunification. To revitalize Potsdamer Platz, where only the Weinhaus Huth has stood since the war, Renzo Piano’s company was selected. The Daimler-Chrysler corporation is promoting the project, which consists of 18 buildings connected by pedestrian streets and a square. The project’s proportions are on a human scale, encouraging the locals to stroll in the neighborhood, which is both lively and peaceful thanks to its trees and fountains. Despite using the same materials throughout, Piano’s eight structures are exposed to a range of treatments and finishings to produce a cohesive whole that defies uniformity. B1, a 195-foot-tall office complex with a glass façade overlaid over a terracotta front, was the first structure to be constructed. Commercial space is located in buildings B3 and B10, while B5 is a residential structure with an interior garden. The additional structures hold a casino, a theater, a cinema B7, and offices for the development company’s subsidiary Debis C1 (Piano and Cuito, 2002).

Imax cinema theatre by Renzo Piano - Sheet1
Plan of the complex_©Jodidio and Piano, 2014
Imax cinema theatre by Renzo Piano - Sheet2
Theatre from outside_©https://in.pinterest.com/pin/474074298245510644/

Design of the Theatre

Despite the desire of one architect to use different materials for the façade of the adjoining Hyatt Hotel, an IMAX cinema created by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop faces the back of the Debis block, supporting the urban continuity established by the architect. The 15600 square meters convertible IMAX Theater, commonly known as B7, is a mixed-use structure including a theater, a restaurant, and retail spaces. The integrated, 36-meter-diameter sphere housing the 440-seat theater is part of the structure. The theater’s spherical volume rises above the structure and can be seen from a distance. The sphere can be seen from the street as well thanks to a 1000 square meter façade made of transparent glass (Jodidio and Piano, 2014).

Imax cinema theatre by Renzo Piano - Sheet3
Plan and elevation_©Jodidio and Piano, 2014

Renzo Piano’s concept for the complex was “unity without being uniform”. The cinema building, which emerges from the half-circle form and grows along Marlene-Dietrich-Platz, is notable for its lengthy, curved glass facade and some metallic structural components. 18 silver ties are what is pulling up the veneer. It is close to the Mercedes Center. One of the most intriguing structures in the region was made quite simply. A half circle-shaped construction’s primary volume has been raised to five-story, producing spacious interiors for movie theaters. The projection room for the movie theater is positioned underneath the enormous dome that covers the top of this structure. And not just any screen, either—one that is 550 square meters in size! The 950-square meter surface is the result of the architects Renzo Piano and Christoph Kohlbecker’s decision to allow the usage of this dome to increase the projection screen’s size (Hurstel, 2012).

Imax cinema theatre by Renzo Piano - Sheet7
inside-outisde_© Pizzi, 2002
Imax cinema theatre by Renzo Piano - Sheet8
sections_© Pizzi, 2002
Imax cinema theatre by Renzo Piano - Sheet9
Piano on the roof_© Pizzi, 2002
Imax cinema theatre by Renzo Piano - Sheet10
Facade_© Pizzi, 2002
Imax cinema theatre by Renzo Piano - Sheet6
Facade_© Gianni Berengo Gardin, Vincent Mosch, Enrico Cano, Michel Denance
Imax cinema theatre by Renzo Piano - Sheet5
Facade_© Gianni Berengo Gardin, Vincent Mosch, Enrico Cano, Michel Denance
Imax cinema theatre by Renzo Piano - Sheet4
Elevation and section_©Gianni Berengo Gardin, Vincent Mosch, Enrico Cano, Michel Denance

The visuals created by Renzo Piano’s massive glass façade of the Omnimax theater are perhaps the most stirring of all the transparent surfaces that liven up the new Potsdamer Platz. Behind the curving glass façade and aluminum ribs, a big blue sphere can be seen that appears to be floating in space and is poised to ascend softly into the air. Visitors immediately notice the enormous spatial effect created by this fundamental solid as soon as they step into the building, which is shielded by the jutting glass front that protrudes from the brick façade. The expansive views of the intricate changes occurring in the new urban environment outside provided by the escalators or balconies enhance the area. Dual-curvature ceramic tile front splits to provide access to a whole scenic area that evokes recollections of the key Enlightenment projects’ influences. 

Imax cinema theatre by Renzo Piano - Sheet11
section_© https://www.behance.net/gallery/28734471/Imax-Cinema-Berlin-for-RPBW

The big moon that is centered in this brand-new urban block and displaying its distinctive and symbolic message seems to be the best example of the constant need for fresh inventiveness in the design of our cities (Pizzi, 2002). Renzo Piano’s this structure among the others in the complex stands out and is admired. It also pays respect to the design of the theatre that was there before it was destroyed. Piano wrote in The Disobedience of the Architect (2004) that he tried to match his architecture to the personality of a city. “The Berliners are accustomed to living outdoors, and to a certain form of conviviality.” The new Potsdamer Platz was designed to capture the Berliner’s “sense of gaiety, their sense of humour. Why should a city be demoralizing? The beautiful thing about a city is that it is a place of meetings and surprises.”

Imax cinema theatre by Renzo Piano - Sheet12
The sphere_© Vincent Mosch, https://potsdamerplatz.de/en/architecture/s
From bird’s eye view_© https://virtualglobetrotting.com/map/imax-potsdamer-platz/view/google/

References:

  1. Craven, J., 2019. Biography of Renzo Piano, Italian Architect. [online] ThoughtCo. Available at: <https://www.thoughtco.com/renzo-piano-pritzker-winning-architect-177867#:~:text=Architectural%20Style,new%20at%20the%20same%20time.> [Accessed 4 August 2022].
  2. Piano, R. and Cuito, A., 2002. Renzo Piano. New York, N.Y.: Te Neues.
  3. Jodidio, P. and Piano, R., 2014. Piano. Köln: Taschen.
  4. Hurstel, J., 2012. Potsdamer Platz, Cinema Imax – 7/17. [online] Architects Association. Available at: <https://architextsassociation.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/potsdamer-platz-cinema-imax-717/> [Accessed 4 August 2022]. 
  5. Pizzi, E., 2002. Renzo Piano. Bologna: Zanichelli.
Author

Prashanti is an Architect from India, who is currently pursuing her master’s in Design Research in Germany and got lucky to study in the Bauhaus Building. She is a potterhead and plays guitar. She feels excited and blessed to be able to share her stories through RTF.

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