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Birmingham School of Architecture’s Co.Lab creates space for film festival

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The Co.Lab initiative at Birmingham School of Architecture worked with Flatpack Festival to convert Victorian church into a temporary cinema

The Co.Lab initiative set up by Birmingham School of Architecture acts as a live project office aiming to get students and staff working with other disciplines to look at the role of architecture within the city.

University tutor Alessandro Columbano says: ‘Apparently, research shows Birmingham School of Architecture was the first school to set up live projects as a teaching pedagogy in the 1950s’.

Postgraduate students work with undergraduates on specific projects each year, from research, writing, graphics, consultation, design and construction. The initiative also aims to help students realise the potential of their skills if they do not follow the traditional architectural career path of practice.

One of the initiatives most recent projects involved working with Flatpack festival on a project entitled Flatpack Palais. This annual festival celebrates the experience of film in unusual places.

Students were asked to construct a seating structure within a converted Victorian library in Digbeth. The brief was for a multifunctional cinema space and bar to accommodate more than 120 guests at each event.

The ‘living room’ was looked at as a design concept, with the aim of making the space comfortable and intimate.

In generating their design students looked to Birmingham Art’s Lab – a collective from the 1970’s with a reputation of avante-garde performance art and subverting spaces. They created a theatre space from timber pallets and this was a key precedent for the Co.Lab students.

The architecture students worked in collaboration with textile students to develop seating for the cinema area using pallets.  

More than 700 visitors used the Palais space during the four days which it was open. At the end of the festival the pallets were sold back to a local distributor, timber offcuts used for model making by architecture students and the fabric used by the textile students.

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