In­side and out Vi­o­let Crown’s ar­chi­tec­tural and in­te­rior de­sign

in­side and out

Pasatiempo - - HAPPENING IN MAY - Paul Wei­de­man

What was for years a big hole at the Santa Fe Rai­l­yard is — as of Fri­day, May 1 — Vi­o­let Crown Santa Fe. It’s been a 10-year wait for a new theater at the Rai­l­yard site. A story in The New Mex­i­can in June 2005 said a new theater chain called Maya Cine­mas was ready to en­ter into a con­tract with Rai­l­yard Co. LLC to build a mul­ti­plex. The Maya plan, which Rai­l­yard au­thor­i­ties were still talk­ing about six years later, was for 2,000 seats in 10 au­di­to­ri­ums, seven of them be­low ground. The mul­ti­plex built by Bill Banowsky’s Vi­o­let Crown Cine­mas is along sim­i­lar lines: 11 screens, all but three in the base­ment level, but in a smaller build­ing with only 730 seats.

This is the sec­ond Vi­o­let Crown. Banowsky de­vel­oped the first sev­eral years ago, adapt­ing an ex­ist­ing build­ing. “In Austin, we trans­formed a 3,500-square­foot space to a 7,500-square-foot theater, and the Santa Fe theater is 34,000 square feet,” he said dur­ing an early-April walk-through in Santa Fe. The first task was to make the hole in the earth even big­ger. “We went down 26 feet to cre­ate this enor­mous con­crete sub­struc­ture to ac­com­mo­date eight of our 11 au­di­to­ri­ums.”

The new build­ing is dramatically styled and nicely asym­met­ri­cal. Most of its front, fac­ing on the Rai­l­yard’s plaza, is long, low, and glassy. Then there is a taller, box­like el­e­ment fin­ished in Corten (a steel that weath­ers to a rusty ap­pear­ance) at the north end. A gen­eral sense of hor­i­zon­tal­ity is un­der­lined by the pres­ence of a 10-foot awning along the glazed ex­panse; then, at the same height, there is a thicker awning form that wraps around the Corten cube, which forms a roof over the re­cessed box-of­fice en­trance on the build­ing’s north side.

Dou­glas Payne, of Domiteaux + Baggett Ar­chi­tects, Dal­las, said he and his part­ner fol­lowed the guide­lines out­lined in the Rai­l­yard Mas­ter Plan, cre­ated for the re­cent re­de­vel­op­ment of the area. The three rail­roads that were ac­tive in Santa Fe a hun­dred years ago “in­tro­duced new con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als such as large-pane glass, brick, and gal­va­nized metal in the ar­chi­tec­tural fab­ric of Santa Fe,” ac­cord­ing to the plan. The ar­chi­tec­ture of the Santa Fe Rai­l­yard “should re­flect the ware­house, industrial, and com­mer­cial his­tory of the site and the con­cept of an arts and cul­tural dis­trict,” the doc­u­ment adds. “New devel­op­ment is to be de­signed in sim­pli­fied forms that ref­er­ence the ware­house styles on the site.”

Vi­o­let Crown is rel­a­tively sim­ple, although its masses are quite var­ied and are or­na­mented here and there with ar­chi­tec­tural grids that break up wall ex­panses and an­chor movie posters. The build­ing has both flat and sloped roofs, but the two roof heights at the front are in sync with those of the flank­ing build­ings, Santa Fe Clay and Mar­ket Sta­tion. Most of the rear of the build­ing is red stucco and gray-cor­ru­gated metal, sim­i­lar to the ma­te­ri­als and colors of the Rai­l­yard’s gal­leries and other nearby build­ings.

The drama of the rust­ing box at the north­east cor­ner con­tin­ues with the ma­te­rial wrap­ping in­side to the lobby and over the box of­fice, ter­mi­nat­ing with a real de­sign punch: what ap­pears to be a rail­road box­car suspended above the bar. It’s a fac­sim­ile, but one hav­ing the di­men­sions of an ac­tual box­car.

In­te­rior designer Veron­ica Koltu­niak spent a lot of time try­ing to find a real box­car and fig­ure out the en­gi­neer­ing nec­es­sary to sus­pend it. Box­cars are quite

heavy. “They are, and many are filled with as­bestos, and there are some real trans­porta­tion and own­er­ship prob­lems.” “At a cer­tain point, I had to go to plan B. Rep­re­sen­ta­tion­ally, I’m never go­ing to pull the wool over the eyes of the real train ex­perts — the ‘foamers,’ as they call them­selves — so I had to make an artis­tic de­ci­sion that this would be a sculp­tural piece.”

With help from Burling­ton North­ern Santa Fe Rail­way of­fi­cials in Belen, Koltu­niak was able to se­cure a box­car hand brake, which she at­tached to the end of the sculp­ture so it would be vis­i­ble to guests walk­ing in from the theater lobby. “Th­ese things are fed­eral prop­erty, and you can’t just buy them. A phone call doesn’t work. I thought, I’m never go­ing to get this done if I’m not pa­tient and get in some­one’s face. It’s the chase. It’s putting your­self on the edge, do­ing some­thing that could po­ten­tially go real bad — and that edge is where I like to do my work. That box­car is such a ma­jor trick, but I think when you can sort of glean from an en­vi­ron­ment and choose from that with­out hav­ing it be like a car­i­ca­ture, it can work. Plus, we needed a drop ceil­ing over a big-ass bar.”

A few steps away is the restau­rant. Its pri­mary menu item is gourmet pizza cooked in a stone-hearth oven. “We also do sal­ads, spring rolls, hot dogs — but ev­ery­thing is hand-pre­pared,” Banowsky said. “The menu is ex­ten­sive, but it’s es­sen­tially a ‘fast-ca­sual’ ap­proach. You or­der and take a flag, and your food will be brought to you, and then you can take it into the theater — but there will be no wait­staff in the the­aters.” There is also seat­ing out­doors un­der the front awning.

The au­di­to­ri­ums are all black in­side. Most have 60 seats, each one a bit larger than a tra­di­tional movi­ethe­ater seat. They re­cline and have ta­bles that you can bring up and over to hold your food and drink. The seat­ing is de­signed with a good ver­ti­cal rise so there’s no worry about tall hair in front of you.

It would be easy to as­sume that the seat­ing would be de­signed to hose off spilled food be­tween shows, but that’s not nec­es­sary. “We’ve had the same sit­u­a­tion for four years in Austin, and it’s not an is­sue,” Banowsky said. By up­scal­ing the feel­ing of the place, movie­go­ers take more care. It’s a re­sult of what the owner de­scribed as “bring­ing more of a hos­pi­tal­ity ap­proach to the cinema ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Sound­proof­ing was a big deal on this project. “One of the most im­por­tant as­pects was to get sound iso­la­tion, so you don’t get bleed from the ad­ja­cent au­di­to­ri­ums, not to men­tion from the restau­rant op­er­at­ing above four of the cine­mas,” he said. “We learned from all the best prac­tices in the in­dus­try and took it a step fur­ther.” Payne said the the­aters have dou­ble walls with air spa­ces — “the amount of dry­wall we used was enor­mous” — and all the walls are on acous­tic mats, so they’re suspended from the floor.

This was one of the chal­lenges faced by the de­sign and con­struc­tion team, which had no mul­ti­plex the­aters of sim­i­lar de­sign else­where in the coun­try for com­par­i­son. Domiteaux + Baggett, mostly a res­i­den­tial ar­chi­tec­ture firm, started work­ing with Banowsky do­ing re­mod­els of cine­mas in North Carolina. This is only the firm’s fourth theater project.

Talk­ing about de­sign considerations, Banowsky said the ar­chi­tects “got in­ti­mately ac­quainted with the guide­lines in the Rai­l­yard. Roni [Koltu­niak] is an artist. She comes to th­ese places and just spends time, and she has hired lo­cal peo­ple to do most of the work.” The Austin-based in­te­rior designer said, “I’d never spent any time in Santa Fe, be­cause I thought it was sort of a car­i­ca­ture of it­self — not to be mean — but then Bill brought me on, and I went out and got real ex­cited. I went to the rai­l­yards in Belen, Al­bu­querque, and Lamy, as well as Santa Fe, and im­mersed my­self in the cul­ture and found out about foamers.

“I come from a set-de­sign back­ground. Be­fore I was do­ing in­te­ri­ors, I did sets, cre­at­ing spa­ces to fit char­ac­ters, and that’s how I ap­proach a project: Who is this client? What is this build­ing?”

Koltu­niak be­gan work­ing in the home-de­sign sphere in 1992, open­ing a de­sign stu­dio named MIL­DRED and do­ing in­te­ri­ors in Hol­ly­wood for celebri­ties, in­clud­ing Madonna and other high-end clients. “Then, when I got more in­volved in the com­mer­cial work, it was more about the space and the con­cept given to me by the owner — in this case, Bill — and I wanted to do a sort of min­i­mal­ist ver­sion of what I thought was a pal­ette or tone of Santa Fe with­out go­ing into a Pue­blo ver­nac­u­lar. I also wanted an aus­ter­ity, so I was play­ing with how to speak to the land­scape and en­vi­ron­ment of Santa Fe, and, specif­i­cally, the Rai­l­yard, and, more specif­i­cally, the ar­chi­tec­tural space.”

She is now spend­ing time in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, where Banowsky is de­vel­op­ing the third — and prob­a­bly the last — Vi­o­let Crown theater. “Char­lottesville is the home of Thomas Jef­fer­son, and the build­ing we’re work­ing with is mid­cen­tury mod­ern, a real nice an­ti­dote to the an­te­bel­lum red-brick-and-arches style you see ev­ery­where there, so we’re do­ing a sleek, gray-brick fa­cade.”

The box of­fice, lobby, and restau­rant spa­ces in the new Santa Fe mul­ti­plex are earthy and “up­scale industrial” with their tile and brick and that big steel box­car sculp­ture. The bar un­der­neath that fea­ture boasts 30 taps for beer, as well as wine and ap­ple cider. Sec­ond Street Brew­ery’s Rai­l­yard lo­ca­tion is right across the plaza. Isn’t that a prob­lem, com­pet­i­tively? “No,” Banowsky said. “They look at it as a ris­ing-tide phe­nom­e­non, and we would def­i­nitely have some of their beers on tap.”

The idea is that Vi­o­let Crown will bring more peo­ple to the Rai­l­yard, an ad­van­tage for all the busi­nesses there. And theater cus­tomers get four hours of free park­ing in the ad­ja­cent rai­l­yard park­ing garage. That may be the real key to en­liven­ing the dis­trict.

The ar­chi­tec­ture of the Santa Fe Rai­l­yard “should re­flect the ware­house, industrial, and com­mer­cial his­tory of the site.”

— from the Rai­l­yard Mas­ter Plan

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.