New Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, NY

Posted by Staff on Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Early this year, the Museum of the Moving Image reopened in Astoria, NY after a three year renovation. The $67 million project designed by architect Thomas Leeser, combines contemporary design and technology to bring out the expansive history of the moving image in all its various forms. Beyond just screening films, Leeser and the exhibit planners sought out design and technology that would encourage the visitor to be more than just a viewer of images, but to actually participate in their creation.

The building that houses the museum, a former Paramount production studio, is itself a landmark in the history of moving pictures. Since the building is a protected landmark, relatively little was done to redesign the front facade. However, what Leeser did do with it immediately establishes the tone for the entire museum. The three tall windows surrounding the entrance were patterned over with small triangles made out of a translucent film. The large block letters spelling out the museum’s name are outlined in bright pink and cut through the triangles to create areas of total transparency; it’s a lot for the eye to deal with in one glance. A sense of movement is created as the viewer simultaneously tries to take in the reflections of the outside world and glimpses of the interior.

The small triangles featured in the building’s entrance reflect the design of the addition situated at the museum’s rear. The façade of this new section is a sleek looking composition of triangular aluminum panels. They are slightly muted so as not to be overwhelmingly reflective, but are still responsive to the building’s surrounding. Light is what makes the moving image possible and this is playfully integrated into the new façade. Triangles within triangles activate movement in the observer’s eye and movement from the surrounding area is reflected within the triangles.

The triangular pattern appears once again in the new 267-seat theater, but this time as vibrant felt panels in Yves Klein blue. Interrupting the monochromatic glow of the theatre is an explosion of color in a screen curtain created by the artist Cindy Sirko; various colors jump out at the audience in geometric shapes in what looks like an abstraction of the physical process of vision.

Beyond the cinematically conscious architecture, there are many exhibits in the museum that use new technologies to immerse the visitor in the world of the moving image. The ongoing exhibition, Behind the Screen, is spread across two floors and covers everything from early optical inventions to the most contemporary film and editing technology. Throughout this exhibit, visitors have many opportunities to interact with the process of making films. Visitors can replace dialogue from films with their own voice or change the soundtrack to a scene and see how it effects the mood. At another station, you can transform your movement into a series of still pictures and take them away with you in a nifty little flip book.

The new museum also features visiting exhibitions designed with the latest in film technology. On display now is an exhibition called Real Virtuality, in which participants wear 3-D glasses and enter a virtual Museum of the Moving Image. The viewer is immersed in projections of the museum, including real time footage of other visitors, and tracked by an overhead camera that relays information about the viewer’s movements back to the software controlling what they see.

This is the kind of experience that we are excited to see popping up more and more in museums of all types. If you read about some of the other museums we have covered here, you’ll definitely notice that visitor interaction is key to the museum’s continued relevance in today’s technologically-oriented culture.

Leave a Reply

Must Read