Floating Cinema, London, OBRA Architects, Beijing, Seoul and New York
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Floating Cinema

Floating Cinema, London

Wim Wenders’ film from 1976, titled in English ‘Kings of the Road,’ features Bruno and Robert in a slow-motion race against death. As you might remember, Robert is rescued by Bruno after an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Running his little Volkswagen into a lake at full speed, Robert sees his attempt at self-destruction frustrated by the car’s refusal to sink. Bruno is an itinerant film projector repairman who wanders around the East-German countryside in his truck in search of small-town kinos with a projector in need of repair or maintenance.
Bruno takes Robert under his wing, and from then on the romance of ‘Kings of the Road’ (one of the greatest, and longest, road movies ever made) is predicated on friendship, rock ‘n’ roll, the freedom of ‘having nothing left to lose’ and a humble but sublime workman-like pursuit of the art in the machine.
It would be great if KINOKRAFT, OBRA Architects’ proposal for the Floating Cinema project, could also become a vehicle for a slow-motion race against death; against the death of cinema in small towns, against the death of canals in big cities and above all against the death of art as a way of life. It would be good if KINOKRAFT could offer even a modest satisfaction to the need for an antidote against the rush and demands for ‘efficiency’ of today’s life and preserve for us the possibility of time spent drifting about the canals with abandon in pursuit of the dream-like space of film.

KINOKRAFT is a floating mechanism. Much of the time invested in its design has gone to devise and perfect its capacity to unfold and erect its large, 14-foot-square screen which also becomes a cabin offering protection at times of bad weather. KINOKRAFT offers several different ways of viewing films for both on-board and bank-side audiences. Its operation will be effective and comfortable, focusing on the quality of experience of the cinemagoer and the ease of operation and maintenance of all mechanisms. The project pursues flexibility of use, durability and sustainability of fabrication, but it also aspires to function with the elegant beauty of a good machine, embodying in its graceful and efficient operation the perfectionist spirit of all great film directors and also the automaton-like beauty of opto-mechanical devices such as film projectors and cameras.

AKINOKRAFT will be built by outfitting an existing boat with a set of CNC-prefabricated marine plywood parts. This approach takes advantage of the precision of digital prefabrication and the humble materiality of wood, making it easy to execute the project successfully with the modesty of means implied in the proposed budget. The low-high-tech approach ironically acknowledges the current primacy of technology in our daily lives while keeping a skeptical distance from the optimistic overtones of a romanticized view of technology. Most importantly, this approach is both dimensionally reliable and inexpensive. We have become experts of this medium, applying it successfully at PS1-MOMA, the NAMOC Emergency Housing in Beijing, the URBIA Furniture System in New York and, earlier this year, in the OXYMORON Pavilion of the Shenzhen Architectural Biennale in China.

The KINOKRAFT will be a precise and effective mechanism but will also be free. Existing in a context of a constantly changing background it will slowly, and sometimes luminously, slide into position to compete with the stationary architecture along the canals while forcefully announcing, like Zampanò in ‘La Strada,’ the arrival of cinema!

‘Kings of the Road’ was famously shot without a script. It is said that, in the mornings, Wenders would decide what scenes to try to shoot that day by reviewing what had happened the day before. Only experiences without a known ending are truly attuned to the uncertainty of life; maybe the KINOKRAFT can have a future of drifting about the canals, stubbornly preserving cinema afloat, like a long film without a known end.