Panter Hudspith Architects have completed an ambitious, adaptive transformation of an unusual former 1950’s modernist office and factory building into a new, five screen, 604 seat art-house cinema for Picturehouse Cinemas ltd, in the heart of Crouch End, North London. With very few remaining modernist buildings in the locality, high importance was placed on the preservation and enhancement of the structure’s original features. These retained elements contrast elegantly with new steel framework interventions used to support the existing structure, which are highlighted in a vibrant orange hue. This subtle blend of old and new allows history of the building and how it has been altered, to create a rich and immersive cinema experience.
The building’s original concrete frame was stripped back, sandblasted and exposed throughout, creating a raw and industrial aesthetic thread that leads through the structure. Similarly, on the ground floor, the office’s undercroft car park, enclosed by a line of concrete pillars, has been re-used, and the columns accentuated by full height glazing behind. Together they form the ground floor façade, main cinema entrance and ground floor café with seating for 70. The café and foyer ceiling features the original, hollow terracotta pot floor slabs, which have been exposed and restored, bringing warmth and depth to the foyer and creating a light, relaxed meeting space for film-goers and visitors alike.
Externally, above the foyer’s line of columns, a delicate new semi-translucent façade offers glimpses into the interiors of the building, and casts playful shadows to the street by evening. The transparency of the facade was inspired by the concept of a zoetrope – one of the earliest forms of moving image. To the rear, the former factory walls were retained in situ and exposed along the main circulation route to the ground floor screens. Externally the screens have been carefully scaled and considered to avoid overshadowing neighbouring properties. The rear of the screens and services have been softened by an extensive green wall trellis system.
The need to accommodate four good-sized screens and a screening room on such a compact site, required some of the building’s facilities and screens to be located on the upper floors. This approach presented challenges in making these spaces feel part of the main visitor route through building, with cinemas traditionally single-storey. To encourage visitors to the upper levels, a bespoke, self-supporting grand central steel staircase provides access, which features a complex and visually appealing lattice of steelwork based on abstracted 1950s geometric patterns, that bisects the stair flights.
The lattice also functions as the handrail, balustrade and the support for lighting installed within it, which creates a unique chandelier. The stair is housed in a new top-glazed atrium, installed to bridge the gap between the original office building and factory behind. The atrium allows daylight to flow down though all of the upper levels into the foyer and bar below. Behind the bespoke staircase sits a triple-height mural by contemporary artist Ben Nathan, specially commissioned for the building, which draws on local history and depicts the junction where New River passes under Tottenham Lane and Hornsey mainline. Crouch End’s well-known clock tower also appears in the composition. On the first floor a bar and restaurant has been created, where large sliding windows offer views out onto the street.
The 1950’s recycled Rhodesian teak herringbone parquet floor from the now demolished Scandinavian house on Cannon Street, provides a rich depth of colour and texture. Offering five screens, with state of the art digital projection and sound as well as a 35mm projector, the new cinema will serve the community and cater to a broad range of cinematic tastes, with a wide and varied programme of blockbusters, art house films and documentaries.
Mark Panter, partner, Panter Hudspith Architects said: “Reusing and reinventing the existing modernist structure on Tottenham Lane has enabled the creation of a cinema capable of delivering a wide range of events for local residents, as well as the a traditional cinema experience. Our work in opening the building to the street will, over time, help transform this section of the Tottenham Lane for both pedestrians and cyclists and the local community.“ Lyn Goleby, Managing Director, Picturehouse Cinemas ltd said: “The cinema called ‘Perfect Picturehouse’ was on the same location until 1929, and here we are again.”