The PalaCinema aims to build a physical structure to host a multicultural platform for the cinematic arts built around a convergence between the Locarno Film Festival, the Swiss Film Archive, the Swiss Competence Centre for Audiovisual Arts, the International Conservatory for the Audiovisual Sciences, the production facilities for the Ticinese Television, the Ticino Film Commission and the Audiovisual Department of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland. A commercial entity, Palacinema Enjoy Arena will make use of the cinema rooms in the building on a regular basis.
The project reuses the existing structure of the Palazzo Scolastico and the Piazza Remo Rossi to capitalize on the presence of the Locarno Film Festival into a significant institution for the City of Locarno. The project has been guided by principles of economy and urban recycling to create the identity of this new institution, trying to capitalise on the public affection for the Palazzo Scolastico —which used to host the local schools— and the need for a physical presence of the Locarno Film Festival in the city.
The project occupies an important location, at the entrance to the city, facing the Piazza Remo Rossi and at the entrance to Via Rusca. It becomes a landmark next to the Castello Visconteo, with an important presence in the Western skyline of Locarno.
The project is built with the purpose to lodge the entire program within the volume of the Palazzo Scolastico, consolidating the current footprint and preserving the entirety of the Piazza Remo Rossi for public functions able to host an array of activities, awards ceremonies, screenings, open-air events, etc. The treatment of the Piazza Remo Rossi addresses the new use of the Palazzo Scolastico, referring to the new institutions to be located there. The paving of the Piazza Remo Rossi seeks an association with the red carpet, a customary feature of film festivals.
The volume of the new building has been raised to the maximum height allowed in the planning regulations, extending the Palazzo Scolastico as an abstract volume which “overflows” the old container and displays a texture associated to the Festival’s branding: a facciatta cinetica, composed by 45.000 golden flags which sway with the wind, producing dynamic patterns which capitalize on their kinetic effects to address the cinematographic content of the building. The organic nature of the random patterns created by wind turbulences around the building resonates with the patterns of the festival mascot: The Pardo D’Oro. The facciatta cinetica refers eagerly to the work of Ned Kahn, the extraordinary American artist who has installed similar screens all over the world, and to whom this work aims to pay homage with a ready-made strategy. The resulting volume presides over Locarno’s Western skyline, twinkling with changing leopard-skin-shaped golden sparks to some of its most relevant views, such as the traffic roundabout and the Piazza Castello.
The existing facade has been otherwise covered in white stucco, in order to optimise its performance as a projection surface. The reveals of the existing windows have been covered with golden plates as if the new institutions parasiting the old shell were overflowing it.
The compactness of the resulting massing is effective in terms of the environmental performance of the building, enhancing the interrelation between the different parts of the program. The new facility contains three cinema theatres, with a large theatre with a capacity of 550 seats and two smaller rooms of 150 seats each, which have been lodged in the former courtyard of the pre-existing building structure, preserving the the Palazzo Scolastico as much as possible. This has been achieved by stacking the large theatre on top of the small theatres, so that a generous foyer for all the theaters is provided on the ground level, facing the main entrance from Piazza Remo Rossi.
The new educational and administrative facilities in the building have been lodged in the former Palazzo Scolastico’s East and West bays, and connected with new multi-purpose rooms and a terrace overlooking the Castello, which are contained within the new coronation volume. These facilities can function independently of the cinema theaters, and are accessed from Via Rusca, and have been designed aiming for the maximum flexibility in its programmatic allocation.
By recycling the old structure of the Palazzo Scolastico we have aimed to a substantial reduction in the project’s embodied energy levels, minimizing the carbon emissions associated with the manufacturing, transport and demolition. By extending the old structure’s lifespan we have achieved an important reduction in the building’s environmental costs.