Launch Slideshow

Drive-In and Park, Marfa, Texas

A 3.5 acre park in Marfa, Texas, with a drive-in movie screen that doubles as a band shell; support structures; amd two art installations.

Drive-In and Park, Marfa, Texas

A 3.5 acre park in Marfa, Texas, with a drive-in movie screen that doubles as a band shell; support structures; amd two art installations.

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    The main structure of Drive-in and Park is a 53-foot-tall band shell/drive-in movie screen made from water jet-cut steel plates. The top portion of the structure is flat, allowing for the movie to be projected, but at the base, the triangular steel plates form a concave depression that acts as a band shell, taking advantage of lawn-style seating for intimate live performances.

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    The ground plane is graded to maximize sight lines: precisely angled slopes for pickup trucks and for compact cars (which have different ranges of vision, depending on the height of the vehicle); and a seating bowl up front for people who wish to sit outside.

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    The concave portion of the band shell/movie screen is constructed from a series of triangular steel plates . Plans such as these will be used to help direct construction, as the water jet-cut pieces of steel will be welded on site.

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    For a refined design of the steel skin, the architects commissioned a full-scale mock-up of a section of the band shell/projection screen. The same material system encloses a multipurpose structure near the entrance to the site.

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    A two-story structure at the front of the site serves as a point of entry and a combined services center for the drive-in; it houses a ticket and concession stand on the first story and a projection room on the second.

56th Annual P/A Awards

 

Site
A 3.5-acre parcel in Marfa, Texas, with views of the surrounding desert and a mountain range.

Program
An arts park with a drive-in movie screen that doubles as a band shell; support structures; and two art installations.

Solution
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 Credits
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