ASIAplex: A Center for Contemporary Cinema

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Joe Day, Danny Wicaksono and Yo Oshima


ASIAplex studio will explore the intertwined roles of cinema and architecture as drivers of new cultural forms. Through the 20th century both film and architecture played pivotal roles in cultural exploration and preservation, as well as in the formation of national and regional identity. Technological advances insured that both buildings and “moving pictures” grew more sophisticated, more ambitious and more pervasive in every decade of the last century, and by its close, the same software platforms and production protocols governed “blockbusters” in both fields. The techniques of representation and fabrication pioneered in architecture and filmmaking are now lingua franca across the arts and throughout the built environment.

Both disciplines, however, have already met stiff challenges to their primacy in the new millennium – each wave of digital advance has brought more powerful tools, but also new modes of experiencing space and narrative, that short-circuit the need for fixed architectures and collective cinematic encounter. In its radically diversity and asynchronous development, Asia may be first to witness the eclipse of traditional filmmaking.

Hovering somewhere between a museum and multiplex, ASIAplex will stage a series of cinematic contests: between art house and mass market; documentary and fine art; and, increasingly, between auteur and amateur creators. We will briefly revisit the roots of Formalism in avant-garde filmmaking and its interpretations in vanguard cinema design. A quick study of Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 masterpiece Rashomon will be a common touchstone for formulating a stance toward Asian cinema, after which each student will closely analyze the work of a second filmmaker to extend, reinterpret or challenge that legacy today, and to develop a design methodology and institutional mission in some way kindred to those directors’ visions.


ASIAplex will be situated in one of the most trafficked thoroughfares in Indonesia’s capitol, on a site that has lain dormant since the financial crash of the late 1990s. A strange, almost archeological pocket of urban malaise in a fast-building corridor, the site includes the 20-storey infrastructure for an abandoned tower design. Elevator and fire-stair cores reach over 50 meters in height and claim the rear quadrant of the site, with the remainder a 10-meter deep excavation. The entire the site will be fair game for intervention.

Jalan Sudjirman, Jakarta, Indonesia


The scale of students’ projects will hinge crucially on their curatorial or exhibitionary strategy. These will likely span from very light, even temporary or changing interventions into/onto/above the derelict vertical cores, up to tower-scale proposals for cinema-focused production, exhibition and education. The parameters of the project will be defined by a volumetric allowance not to exceed 1m cubic meters, and by a basic ratio, common in exhibitionary projects, between spaces of public display and the support or service spaces required for archives, staffing, etc. This will be refined, but as a general distribution:

3/4 Exhibition /Production Entry, Theater /Gallery manifold, possibly Sound Stages
1/4 Support Archives, Offices, Dining/Shopping, Deleivery/Sorage, WC

Sustainable Design Agenda

ASIAplex will pursue questions of sustainability at both micro and macro scales, and as both a practical and philosophical issue. Both projection and pixilation are energy-intensive media – how many solar cells are needed to power an IMAX system? (Or, for that matter, to pop popcorn?) These are mundane questions that might generate novel architectural responses – or they may not. Students will foreground the Sustainability issues that best serve and further their architectural investigations.

From a broader, if more oblique, perspective, ASIAplex argues that sustainability requires a brokerage between urban strategies and architectural tactics. Green methods, materials and practices should of course pervade design decisions in all construction (and in much of the world, they must), but those goals are nested in larger ones vis-à-vis the development of “smart” densities – by which I mean both greater systemic efficiencies and better educated, more cognizant populations. In this sense sustainable design extends to the democratization of entertainment, the regeneration of urban brown-field sites, even the preservation and ambitious repurposing of cultural memory.