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A 3.5-acre parcel in Marfa, Texas, with views of the surrounding desert and a mountain range.
An arts park with a drive-in movie screen that doubles as a band shell; support structures; and two art installations.
It is no surprise that a nonprofit arts foundation in the town that Donald Judd made famous would have a nontraditional take on the drive-in movie theater. Connecticut's MOS provided the design: a modular assemblage of water jet-cut steel plates that combines concave and flat surfaces to serve as both a projection screen and a band shell. The same design and fabrication strategy dictates the form of the projection booth and the ticket and concession stands.
As a building program, the drive-in has a nostalgic quality that intrigued the jury, but it was the creation of communal space that caught their interest. "[The drive-in] is a typology that defined a kind of new collective experience in America in the early age of driving and cinema," Henry Urbach said. "There's so much about this project that I find extraordinarily sophisticated, but bottom line, it's the way that it produces an extremely rich, collective experience where there was none, by integrating landscape gestures that are subtle yet beautifully handled."
The materials and form of the band shell/screen were also much discussed. "I like the actualization–the material quality and structure that creates it," Jeanne Gang said. "It's a drive-in, a projection screen, and a band shell at the same time, so it programmatically does more than one singular element [would], and at the same time it really is working with the site and creating its own landscape of program." Lars Lerup agreed: "It has this abstract quality at the same time that it creates a collective experience. You can see it being lit up at night in this wonderful landscape."
One area where the project could have gone further, Urbach noted, is "rethinking the enclosure of the car and the mechanism of interface. Are there clip-on speakers, or is there an opportunity for cross-pollination among cars?"
Project: Drive-In and Park
Client: Ballroom Marfa
Architect: MOS, New Haven, Conn. – Michael Meredith, Hilary Sample (design principals); James Tate, Heather Bizon, Ryan Culligan, Maciej Kaczynski (project team)
Structural Engineer: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger – Paul Kassabian
Lighting Engineer: Atelier 10, New Haven, Conn. – Mark Loeffler, Chad Groshardt