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Cinema as Emblem, Conflicting Conceptions

by Sasha Welland

The Grand MOMA, Beijing is an award-winning complex of eight mixed-use towers linked by a sky ring, which was completed in 2009. The promotional materials produced for prospective residents/customers who toured the real estate sales center during construction included a DVD of American architect Steven Holl introducing the project. In this segment, Holl describes the cinema at the design’s center as a place of gathering, a microcosm of the project, an emblematic feeling of moving through space. The animated architectural rendering of this cinema projects a scene from the 1934 Chinese silent film The Goddess on its screen. The design includes a porous wall so that the iconic face of the film’s star Ruan Lingyu shines through to the building’s exterior and reflects in the pool of water surrounding it. This invocation of The Goddess as marketing device alienates the film from its roots in nascent socialist realism. Ruan Lingyu, herself a working-class girl catapulted to silver screen fame and scandal who committed suicide at the age of twenty-four, plays a prostitute consumed by predatory elements in colonial-era capitalist Shanghai. When rage borne of injustice drives her to murder, her glamorous façade, like that of the city, glimmers with revolutionary potential.

Grand MOMA - Cinematic Adventure

In this segment of a promotional video for the Beijing Grand MOMA real estate development, architect Steven Holl describes the cinema as a central design element and moving through its sky ring as a cinematic adventure.

from Grand MOMA (当代MOMA) (2006)
Creator: Steven Holl Architects/MOMA Modern Group
Posted by Sasha Welland