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1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 185 (163)

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition
1945 Theatre Catalog
1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 185
Page 185

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 185

had been concealed by lavish decoration. But all these empty shells, void of the symbolizing system of pilasters, panels, and cornices, will also lack in fiscalefl All architecture, and interiors in particular, are related to human proportions, as indicated by the size of doors and openings, by height of railings, banisters, steps. These individual features were formerly integrated into the columnar order; consequently, the architectural scheme maintained the relationship with human scale all over the vast area on walls and ceiling. By far not

all theatres are beyond criticism regard- '

ing their architecture, some of them violating just this rule of scale in many respects. Yet the scale, once attuned by some structural feature such as arches, rails, etc., should remain of major concern also in planning the new interior.

These features are the points from which to start. There is more than one way to go about it. They may be treated in the new scheme as individual features, connected only by some horizontals and leaving large flat areas in between as a neutral background, or they may be re-integrated into a new rhythmical system of layers or network-like pattern. The unbroken surfaces, interrupted only by some perforating features, will be the main characteristic if they were compared with the discarded traditional system that tried to do just the opposite: It dissolved all surfaces into structure and filling, columns or pilasters and panels enclosed by frames. Modern feeling for masses and surfaces is strictly opposed to breaking them up, it also substitutes simple rhythms for the organic symbolism of columnar architecture (fiat ornaments and textures for the three dimensional depth of heavy relief decoration).

It is understood that also some of the features to be retained might undergo changes, if one realizes that many of them are pure stucco casts applied to suspended plaster carriers. All former classical decoration pretended genuine structure; the structure itself was concealed by a mere showpiece of a foreign structural scheme.

If a new theatre were built, the modern architect would not only avoid such imitative approach, he would rather strive for an expressive shape and interrelation of actual structural members and would clearly separate them from surface treatment and decor. Decoration limited to flat treatment in color, texture, and surface materials will strengthen the contrast between structure and surfaces, thus being functional in the sense of meeting the purpose of decoration.

In the planning of a remodeling job, it would be unreasonable to strip the house down to the genuine construction. It would not help any, and would destroy the physical value of the theatre. Yet some features might be reconstructed as the case may be. The decoration, however, should try to make the best out of the given hull, to find out its potential beauties, to enhance them without introducing a competing foreign scheme. Only in some desperate cases it might be necessary to substitute such a foreign scheme for the complete absence of structural expression or beauty.


THIS PROSCENIUM OF PLEASANT PROPORTIONS lends itself to remodeling with minor efforts. The box on the upper balcony level will be discarded. Notice the bareness and the exposure of confusing stairrails in the background, after removal of the draperies. A slightly curved wall could fill in, leaving the back space for emergency exits from the balcony. This is an example of a legitimate theatre's inadequacy as a cinema.


It is beyond the purpose of this analysis to make any specific suggestions or to go even further in developing certain rules or prescriptions for redecoration. It is the privilege of the artist not to follow strict rules which are likely to interfere with his imagination. With re modelings in particular, every individual .

case is new and asks for unprecedented decisions.

The following will only recapitulate and supplement certain points to be remembered.

Effectiveness of Decoration

The permanently darkened auditorium limits the means of decoration. Too much detail is, under these conditions, a wasted effort. Only definite shapes and lines will be seen in general, although in certain areas hit by light more elaborate decoration may be justified. In reverse, certain points of interest may be highlighted by special light sources. The light refiected from the screen to the balcony face and proscenium asks for special consideration of treatment. The sensation of color hues is dependent on light: only contrasts of value (dark and light) will penetrate the darkness of the

house. These are, therefore, more effec tive than polychromatic schemes.

Colors have to be of very high chroma (no pastel shades), if they are expected to show up at all. Metallic surfaces of curved shapes, such as gilding of moldings, will reflect some of the yet present light in many directions; it is an effective means of catching the light and using it to outline some important shapes of wall decoration. Colored light, though of low intensity, is a good solution for color effects, with the extra advantage of unlimited fiexibility. Black light and luminous surfaces provide new possibilities of decoration. The effectiveness of method

should always be kept in mind, for experience proves that, at present, only very few movie-goers receive even temporary impressions of elaborate decoration and polychromatic color scheme.


Materials are structural or textural, natural or man-made; some can be used without limitation of size (plaster), while others have to show seams and joints, because they are limited to measurements. The record of some materials associates them with specific trends; some are prejudiced for this reason. Marble-mot only a beautiful material with wide selection of colors and patterns, but also a permanent and useful protection for exposed walls-has lost its credit, because its uSe has been overdone in the previous academical period, not only in theatres but also in purely utilitarian application. Besides, there is a definite trend against the natural mateterials in a contemporary ideology which favors the man-made or industrially produced materials.

This preference for metal, glass, and plastics#evident in all helds of designis accepted for its novelty and progressiveness, but it does not altogether exclude the use of marble and wood, provided they are applied as purely textural sheetings in large unbroken units, flush surfaces, the seams in form of a simple and unobtrusive network of thin lines. Such application relies on the organic pattern of grain as a surface veneer, very much different from its former mixture with structural motifs, such as frames and panels, pilasters and banisters with rich moldings. The new application conforms with the requirement of unbroken surfaces preferably spreading material from floor to ceiling, thus also discarding the traditional paradigm of base, column (carrying wall), and entablature (resting lintel) in the upright development of structure.

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1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 185