by Terri Whitehead
For a highway-side retail park in Galway, Ireland, Douglas Wallace Architects have designed an unusual and refreshing cinema. Views in and out of the building are key parts of the experience, and the theaters themselves are dramatic and artfully crafted, with special attention to detail. A glamorous theatricality reigns both inside and on the exterior facade. This is not your typical multiplex.
In March 2005, the Eye Cinema opened as Galway's first new cinema in nearly a decade. Located in the new Wellpark mixed-use development on a main roadway entering the city, the location features picturesque views of the coastline over Lough Atalia, visible from new shops, cafes, housing, and a new hotel, also designed by Douglas Wallace.
Part of this vast 12-acre (5-hectare) development is the Eye Cinema, now showing everything from art-house Irish cinema to mainstream Hollywood hits, with 1,200 stadium-style seats and nine state-of-the-art movie screens.
The theater owes its spirit to a combination of an inspired, responsive client, Edward Holdings — much praised by firm principal Hugh Wallace for allowing the architects to "tease out the boundaries of the project" and for "putting value on good design" — and creative designers Gerry Hand, project director and Charles Robie, design architect.
Although the designers visited several well-known cinemas in the United Kingdom and continental Europe for inspiration, such as the funky one-screen Electric Cinema in Notting Hill with its bar and leather couches, they seem to have thrown out many rules in cinema design. They incorporated only the best that cinema has to offer, trying to find a hybrid of the one-off art house cinema and the large multiscreen urban-scale building. >>>
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The Eye Cinema in Galway, Ireland by Douglas Wallace Architects.
Photo: Gerry O'Leary
A long, curved glass wall provides views out to the landscape and in to the high-tech interior.
Photo: Gerry O'Leary
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