The Sundance Institute sought to leverage their position in the emerging independent film culture by creating places where film could be consumed as a cultural experience on a national scale—connecting independent filmmakers to a larger and more diverse audience through innovative juxtaposition of program. In addition, Sundance’s ongoing agenda of environmental responsibility through respect, preservation, and action could physically connect to a wider audience.
They seek urban edge neighborhoods around the nation where there is an opportunity to create a gathering place that can tie various individuals together through common interest in the energy and culture that builds around grass-roots independent film. They also look to create a place to interact with filmmakers, study film, attend community meetings, local art events, lectures, and enjoy outdoor films in the summer, incorporating cafes and restaurants in gateway areas to draw in the broadest participant pool possible. By establishing centers in urban areas and using environmentally responsible principals of design and construction, Sundance could spread its message of sustainability in a very tangible way while radically evolving the typical American theater-going experience.
The first flagship site in Philadelphia, located at the edge of the UPenn campus, spans between 2 major pedestrian thoroughfares connecting the campus with the local neighborhoods and downtown Philadelphia.
Contextually, the plan was devised to take advantage of foot traffic along these routes while maximizing visual impact at the major intersection of 40th and Walnut by creating a gathering plaza designed for outdoor films. A pod element in this plaza is a small lecture hall from which films could be projected on to the adjacent buildings, and through movable façade elements, could accommodate filmmaker lectures which could literally spill out into the streets.
A flexible theater adjacent to the secondary route has its own café and gallery which could act independently from the building as a whole - accommodating locally generated events at all hours of the day like local theater, live music, and art shows. By using new ticket purchasing options which allowed advance seating selections, and designing continuous connections to public outdoor spaces (both plaza and gardens), the traditional barriers and stressful timelines associated with theaters dematerialized, allowing the visitors to linger, enjoy, discover, and dive deeper.