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Owner PalaCinema SA, Locarno
Design Consortium AZPML+DF, London/Lugano
Engineering WMM Ingenieure, Münchenstein
Construction Mafledil, Osogna
Waterproofing Drytech Ticino, Bedano
Drytech Tank 1,200 m²
CINEMA PALACE, LOCARNO / Suddenly, a leopard's coat fleetingly crosses the facade of the new Locarno cinema building. It is a spotty and sinuous wind, revealed by the mobile gold scales that rise above the historic Palazzo Scolastico.
Designed in 1892 by the architect Ferdinando Bernasconi, the building has become an characteristic element of the urban landscape over more than one century, first as a school and then as the headquarters of various NGOs and community associations.
The London architects, AZPML, started from this sentimental heritage for the people of Locarno to design the Cinema Festival’s new icon. The urban concept of the building has favoured recycling over replacement. The existing structure has been exploited for reasons of identity, culture and environment. The mobile tile screen streamlines the lines of the façade, but at the same time enhances the original three-volume profile.
The work also involved Remo Rossi square in front of the building, transformed into a large red carpet which connects perfectly to the surrounding road surface.
The result is a consolidation of the extraordinarily evocative urban identity, together with an important rebranding of the building, which makes it the symbol of the Festival and the iconic gateway to the famous Piazza Grande: the open-air cinema with 8,000 seats that, with its 364 m² screen (the largest in the world), has impressed even Dave Johns, protagonist of I, Daniel Blake directed by Ken Loach (Prix del Public 2016). The English actor, at his debut in the cinema, after seeing himself on the colossal Locarno screen, commented "if your screens are this big, I can’t imagine what your popcorn’s like!”
The Cinema Building, inaugurated this year as part of the 70th edition of the Locarno Festival, has three avant-garde screening rooms, two with 142 seats each, located between the lower-ground and ground floor, and one with 500 seats on the second floor. The two underground cinemas and all the other service areas below the ground floor were built using the Drytech Tank System.
The windowsills, on the other hand, were made with a Drycoat layer which, with its reduced thickness, has not altered the purity of the architectural lines.
The third floor features a large central space of about 600 m² almost 6 metres high, used as an events room and multipurpose space. The building’s east wing is dedicated to the Festival organization’s offices. And on top of it all, the cover of gold tiles. Ethereal, shifting, dynamic: it's architecture, but it looks like cinema.

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