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Romance In The Ufa Cinema Center Architecture Essay

Bernard Tschumi is regarded as one of the world s pioneering architects, rejecting the traditionalist mentality and one of the few fore runners of deconstructivism. His essay, The Pleasure of Architecture which was written in 1978 manifests his theoretical ideas of the pleasures in architecture, in which he stresses on the uselessness of architecture and the inclusion of perversion and the irrational. It talks about sensuality and sexual analogies such as eroticism, excess, bondage, seduction and limits of architecture which he represents in eleven fragments. One of Tschumi s most renowned projects, the Parc de la Villette is the epitome of his deconstructivist thinking. It breaks away from functionalist theories of the past and is designed as a 21st century urban park, where programs and superimposition of systems comes into play and the concept of form follows function becomes a polar opposite. The UFA Cinema Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au, the pair who challenges traditional anthropocentric architecture and is categorized as deconstructivists, also incorporates the idea of deconstructivism, with its urban concept, dynamic geometries and injection of public spaces. It became one of their notable works in deconstructivist thinking. The first part of this paper discusses on Tschumi s fragments in The Pleasure of Architecture, the meanings that they carry and his notion of pleasure derived from those fragments which are closely related to one another. In relation to that, how his theory on deconstructivism is incorporated into the Parc de la Vilette and the pleasures that manifest from it. Part two discusses on Coop Himmelb(l)au s UFA Cinema Centre, how it relates back to Tschumi s fragments and how it s deconstructivist design transforms it into an architecture of pleasure.

How does Bernard Tschumi s notion of pleasure and deconstructivism manifest in the Parc de la Vilette?

According to Tschumi, pleasure can be achieved from two types of oppositions, the intervention of the norm in which society expects of what architecture should be, usefulness which leads to its uselessness (Tschumi, 1977), and the un-intendancy to create a space for function that was either with intentions or accidental which forms a disjunction (Tschumi, 1981). Tschumi distinguishes pleasure from bliss or ecstasy, in which this understanding was influenced by Roland Barthes book The Pleasure of the Text (Hill, 2003). In The Pleasure of Architecture, fragments of sexuality separate Tschumi s ideas of pleasure and some of which can be seen in the Parc de la ViIlette. Bernard Tschumi s Parc de la Vilette emerged as a winner in a park design competition held by the French Government in 1982. The aim was to signify the beginning of a new era in an important part of Paris, to ensure its future beneficial development. (Damiani, 2003). It is a collaboration of Tschumi, Peter Eisenman and Jacques Derrida, the three being deconstructivist architects and Derrida, the forerunner of deconstruction (Kipnis, 1991).

Double Pleasure.

Neither the pleasure of space nor the pleasure of geometry is (on its own) the pleasure of architecture. It is both. (Tschumi,1977). Tschumi s first fragment explains that the pleasure in architecture is neither the pleasurable experience of space nor the creation of form and geometry alone but the collision of both. This manifests in the Parc de la Vilette, where the superimposition of three different systems: Points, lines and surfaces is seen (Damiani, 2003).

Figure 1: Lines, Points and Surfaces. (Masschelein & Straeten, n.d.)

The points are represented by the distinguishable red folies which appear as three storey cubes in which no function was intended to it, therefore leaving it as an open space. He used the idea of repetition to differentiate each folies, with geometries sticking to it as the only notable difference. (Masschelein & Straeten, n.d.). This creates the pleasure of geometry.

Figure 2: Images of some of the follies. (Park De La Villette, Paris, France: Bernard Tschumi Architects)

The form of the folie was designed before it was given a function, following the principles of deconstructivism. (Turner, 1994). The second system, the lines, structures the circulation of pedestrians and a linear space is created, leading one towards interesting views and spots. (Masschelein & Straeten, n.d.). This creates the pleasure of space. The third system which is the surface forms large horizontal spaces for the use of various activities and again the pleasure of geometry comes to light. (Masschelein & Straeten, n.d.). The superimpositions of these systems collide and therefore it is a pleasure of architecture and the separation of the systems three forms deconstruction.

The pleasure of space: This cannot be put into words, it is unspoken. It is the form of experience (Tschumi, 1977). In order to feel pleasure in a space, one must experience the real thing and that it cannot be described with words alone. This can be represented in the superimpositions of the park, where its complexity, described in text is incomprehensible compared to one experiencing the real thing.

Pleasure and Necessity

Tschumi touches on the uselessness of architecture and how architects are facing social constrains, where irrationality of architecture is regarded as wrong. (Tschumi, 1977). The necessity of architecture may well be its non-necessity (Tschumi, 1977). He argues that architecture should be useless, and serves no purpose, contrary to what society expects it to be. (Hill, 2003) The misuse of and denial of the norm, uselessness becomes useful, that is pleasurable. (Hill, 2003). Tschumi states that a park is like fireworks, used for production and consumption, it is useless but at the same time it made to provides pleasure. (Hill, 2003). Parc de la Villette is designed without a set function in mind, its framework and organization allows an interchange of people, events and spaces which contributes to more freedom and expressions in the park. Parts and structures can be easily replaced and shifted while still maintaining its identity with the ideas of deconstructivism, this rejects the traditional rules of urban parks therefore its freedom is regarded as useless and a non-necessity, this misuse becomes a pleasure in architecture. (Pugh, 2004)

Metaphor of Order- Bondage

This fragment focuses on the restraints of architecture, in the form of rules, theories, laws and past functionalist dogmas. Like the game of bondage, it is sadistic, entangling architectural design like binding ropes. Pleasure derives when the constraint is greater, and the thought of overcoming that sophisticated bind. (Tschumi, 1977).

Figure 3: Ropes and rules. (Damiani, 2003)

The Parc de la Villette was part of a competition in which Tschumi had won. There were protests from landscape designers on the participation of architects and at the same time, political changes were made, and economic crisis was at a high. (Damiani, 2003). These were the restraints that Tschumi had to face at the time along with the historical background of the site, being a slaughterhouse previously and one of the last remaining large sites in Paris. (Damiani, 2003).


In this fragment, it states that architecture should go against traditional principles which are regarded as outdated and that its persistence on rationality becomes irrational. Like the principals of deconstructivism, in which its disorder and unconventional methods are regarded as irrational and breaking free from traditional discourses. (Tschumi, 1977) This is seen in the red folies which spreads along the park, each different form one another, and how they were not assigned a function in contrast to past principles.


The fragment of Eroticism says that pleasure is not about the contentment of the senses nor is it the sensuality of space. Eroticism is not the excess of pleasure, but the pleasure of excess. (Tschumi, 1977). Is it in fact a junction between space and concepts, (Tschumi, 1977).

Figure 4: Eroticism. (Damiani, 2003)

In the case of the Parc de la Villette, its disjunction of spaces and events was made to be intentional or accidental, with complex programmes scattered from one another creating a contrast of functions. (Hill, 2003).

Figure 5: Plan View of Parc de la Villette. (Pugh, 2004)

Metaphor of Seduction- The Mask

This fragment states that architecture is a seducer, wearing masks, hiding behind facades and architectural elements. Yet behind those provocative masks lies the pleasure of architecture. (Tschumi, 1977).

Figure 6: Masks. (Damiani, 2003)

With its large area compromising various and different functions and programmes of entertainment facilities, its architectural elements becomes the mask of the Parc de la Villette, not knowing what to expect from each element as there is no set function or hierarchy. Yet unveiling what function lies behind it leads to pleasure.


The fragment Excess talks about breaking free and exceeding expectations. It states that architecture should not imitate the past nor should architecture obey it. It should create illusions; break free from formalities, orders, systems and precedents. It should be different and be something formal society does not expect it to be. That is the ultimate pleasure, when rules and limits are considered wrong and architecture becomes better than it should be. (Tschumi, 1977).

The ideas of deconstructivism and pleasure once again manifests in the park s system of points represented by the grid of folies.

Figure 7: Grid of Folies. (Pugh, 2004)

It replaces the traditional static park monuments by having unique spaces and hosting various programmes. It becomes reference points for the park as well, having room for extensions since it is not imposed with hierarchy. (Pugh, 2004). This irregularity deconstructs the traditional mentality and functionalist discourses. (Masschelein & Straeten, n.d.).

Architecture of Pleasure

This fragment also talks about concept and space colliding, deconstruction of past principals and where rules are transgressed and is considered perverse. (Tschumi, 1977).

Figure 8: Transgression. (Damiani, 2003)

The parks superimposition of three systems is irregular, linear and undulating, in contrast to the controlling and stoic ones found in traditional parks. They do not lead you to specific places or a series of spots, they are random, only acting as pathways in which you walk on. They are useless but this is the pleasure of architecture when it becomes something that society does not expect it to be.


The last of the fragments highlights that architecture consists of fragments which exists in text and in dreams. It is the recipient of ones ideas and wishes. Its elements seduce and wish to be brought to reality. (Tschumi, 1977). The Parc de la Villette is the result of Tschumi s, Derrida s and Eisenman s collaboration in creating the ultimate urban park of the 21st century. It was derived from the architects theories of deconstructivism and was brought into reality after winning a competition. The result of Tschumi s winning scheme with the help of the other two is one of the world most renowned parks.

The Parc de la Villette is an architecture of pleasure. Its early schemes, superimposition of three systems and folies demonstrated its reference to Tschumi s fragments of The Pleasure of Architecture as well as the ideas of deconstructivism. The uncovering of these fragments will be used to relate to the UFA Cinema Center, how pleasure manifests from it in relation to Tschumi s notion of deconstructivism and pleasure.

How does Coop Himmelb(l)au incorporate their concept of deconstructivism into ones indulgence of pleasure in the UFA Cinema Center?

Coop Himmelb(l)au came to be from the renowned pairing of Wolf D. Prix. and Helmut Swiczinsky in 1968. The team follows theoretical ideas of antihumanism and aspects of the body, which is perceived as a fragmentation and disintegration, carried unto the design of their buildings under the theme of deconstructivism. (Masschelein & Straeten, n.d.). Like other deconstructivist architects Tschumi, Eisenman and Derrida, Coop Himmelb(l)au challenges the constrains of the past such as laws, orders and formalities of given styles that is embedded into architecture and seeks for freedom and change in its disciplines. ( Coop Himmelblau , n.d.). Their radical thinking brings fourth the UFA Cinema Center, their iconic work based on the theory of deconstructivism.

Double Pleasure

The cinema center was completed in 1998, located in the historical site of Dresden, Germany. The building can be summarized as Eight cinemas are placed in pairs on four stories in an in-situ concrete box, which due to its choice of heavy materials screens both the cinemagoer as well as the glass foyer from the traffic noise of the adjacent ring road. (Skude, n.d.). The cinema center was made to solve the problem of public spaces in Dresden that is being sacrificed for the sake of development. ( Coop Himmelb(l)au , 2001). Therefore a monofuctional building was proposed that adds urban spaces and functions inside, creating a new experience of public spaces. ( Coop Himmelblau , n.d.). Tschumi s first fragment states that pleasure can be derived from the collision of spatial experience and geometry. The cinema can be divided into two connecting units, the cinema block and the crystal. The cinema block not only functions as a place for movies but serves as a permeable space which links with the surrounding streets, creating a connection between Pragerstra e and St. Petersburger Stra e. ( Coop Himmelb(l)au , 2001). The crystal serves as both entry hall for the cinema as well as urban passageway, with bridges, ramps and stairs connecting multiple levels, enabling views in different angles. This experience is like that of a film structure. ( Coop Himmelb(l)au , 2001). Therefore a double pleasure in architecture is created form the junctures between the buildings geometrical play that creates public spaces on the inside and the various functions that is injected into it.

Figure 9: UFA Cinema Center, aerial view. (pmoore66, 2009)

Pleasure and Necessity

Dresden is considered as a city with historical values and an uptight society, building a cinema center at the site was thought to be unusual. (Skude, n.d.). The cinemas surroundings consist of post-modern style buildings with nothing special nor out of the ordinary. Public spaces were a problem therefore the cinema is injected with a host of various functions to create public interiors. To accommodate these spaces an extreme formed building in the shape of a knife and rock was created with contents that functions out of the norm, hanging skybars, ramps and stairs placed irregularly and junctures of materials. These features oppose the traditional ideas of orders and formality; it is uncomprehended by societies thinking and therefore rendered as useless. But it is this uselessness that becomes useful in creating a building that functions well. The misuse of this building therefore brings out pleasure.

Figure 10: Section of UFA Cinema Center. (Oasis China, 2005)

Metaphor of Order- Bondage

The cinema centre is located on a triangular like site clouded with past memories of World War 2, facing the busy steets of St Petersburgstrasse. Owned by developers with ideas of capitalizing financial returns. ( Coop Himmelb(l)au , 2001). Society there was rejuvenated after post-war and is considered to be conservative. (Skude, n.d.). Building a modern cinema complex which incorporates the architects ideas of deconstructivism would be unusual if not perverse. They were bound by the heritage values of the site, the owners, and society s expectations. Nevertheless a one of a kind building of that era arose from the ashes, challenging the old post-war designs and conservative mentalities. It was a building that was bounded by tight laws and restraints making it even more pleasurable when it breaks free.

Figure 11: Coop Himmelblau- UFA Cinema, 1993-98. (roryrory, 2003)


Coop Himmelb(l)au emphasizes the form of this building for the sake of expression (Skude, n.d.), making way for a radical and oddly shaped building, defying traditional laws and comprising of complicated details and multiple sorts of spaces jumbled up in two different blocks. The crystal, looking as though it could structurally fail at any time comprises of an elevator tower that bends back and forth as it moves, albeit moving vertically like a normal elevator. (Skude, n.d.). The irrationality of this building therefore creates pleasure.

Figure 12: The elevator tower. ( UFA- Kino "Kristallpalast", n.d.)


The idea of the UFA Cinema center was to create a monofucntional building with inclusions of new urban spaces and media events inside to tackle the problem of public spaces, and at the same time incorporating Coop Himmelb(l)au s concept of deconstructivism. ( Coop Himmelb(l)au , 2001). From there a uniquely characterized building in the form of two irregular shapes was created. The glass crystal which acts as a five story foyer, is angled to contrast with the more closed cinema block ( Coop Himmelb(l)au , 2001), and the ideas of deconstructivism is more heavily applied. It connects to the exterior space using its openness, and enables radical lying of ramps, stairs and footbridges which are reminiscent of Piranesi s works. ( Coop Himmelb(l)au , 2001). In the center of the foyer, are heavenly bars which are hung from the ceiling creating a sense of floating in space. ( Coop Himmelb(l)au , 2001). With this a junction of space and concept is created, making it erotic.

Figure 13: Heavenly bars. ( Coop Himmelb(l)au , 2001)

Metaphor of Seduction- The Mask

Public spaces are being eradicated for development as is getting lesser as we know it; this is what Dresden is facing. Public spaces are becoming invisible as they are taken away. The cinema center proves that urban public spaces can be created with development and can be physically seen without becoming invisible. (Wells, n.d.). The crystal foyer is able to host various events and functions such as a cafe, it acts as a public square simultaneously. ( Coop Himmelb(l)au , 2001). This is done by creating a suitable form to support the programmes. The ramps and stairs that forms a circulation within the crystal allows views to the outside from different levels and at the same time views to the inside of the building through opaque layers. (Wells, n.d.). The cinema block hosts eight cinemas as well as being permeable to the streets. The building itself is a public space, masked behind playful geometries and collision of materials, when you discover what lies within, it becomes pleasurable.

Figure 14: kakteen ecke. (thost, 2007)


The UFA Cinema Center was unexpected, its modern like design is like an alien on the backdrop of the old site. Coop Himmelb(l)au never intended to relate the building to its surroundings. ( Coop Himmelb(l)au , 2001). It started with the triangular shape of the site, from there a triangular form is faced pointed to a corner of the cinema floor plan while the fa ade steeply slopes outwards, creating a form of that a knife or ship. The crystal, appears like the form of a leaning rock, resting against the cinema block and made of opaque glass, structured with steel rods around it, a contrast of the rough cinema clump. ( Coop Himmelb(l)au , 2001). The building uses a robust of materials, glass, concrete, slabs of galvanized grates, section, stairs and supports made of stainless steeI, and aluminum window mullions. ( Coop Himmelb(l)au , 2001). It is deconstructed, clearly free from traditional orders and logics. The building exceeded the expectations of society and it is different, it creates illusions and did not obey the past, it became better than it should be.

Figure 15: Axonometric drawing. ( Coop Himmelb(l)au , 2001)

Figure 16: The playful building. (Oasis China, 2005)

Architecture of Pleasure

The cinema center proudly stands tall on the site of Dresden, as though knowing the inferiority of its surrounding architecture. As quoted from Coop Himmelb(l)au, We do not work against the old structure in order to destroy it. We work to create new spaces, where and when possible. If an old structure prevents us from creating open space, we destroy it. ( Coop Himmelb(l)au , 2001). The cinema center does not take into consideration its surrounding context nor will it surrender to it. It is different, it does not follow typologies, logical construction, formal orders or culture. The abrupt form of the leaning crystal and the cinema block complete with interplays of materials creating an internal urban public space transgresses traditional rules. It is an architecture of pleasure because it is obsessed with itself.

Figure 17: Ufa palast. (lipar, 2008)


The UFA Cinema Center was a result of the need to create a monofunctional building to solve the problem of public spaces in Dresden. It is made with intents of maximum capital returns. ( Coop Himmelb(l)au , 2001). The idea of creating a building which incorporates public spaces and media events into it, creating an urban space. Coop Himmelb(l)au brought it to life by sketching a psychogram with the projects functions and ideas which are mock created in an artistic way. The whole process including the building are fragments. Each unconscious desire and intent is reflected in the creation of the building leading to a creation which exceeds limits and defies expectations.

The deconstructivist ideas of Coop Himmelb(l)au can be seen in the manifestation of the UFA Cinema Centre in line with the manifestations in Tschumi s Parc de la Villette. The deconstruction of its architectural elements and the dynamism of its form is represented with the cinema block and the leaning crystal which creates public spaces inside. The collision of these two aspects creates pleasure, and it is erotic. The interplay of materials, injection of spaces and connection between its interior and exterior, forms its mask. The cinema center, restrained by the site and its society like a game of bondage overcomes it with an architecture which surpasses limits and expectations. This one of a kind building of its era came to be from the architects desires of deconstruction and is an architecture of pleasure.

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