Maison Muse, An Art Gallery Cinema in 4 Zones / by Alexander Wong

Shanghai is one of the most dynamic cities in the world and has always set the benchmark for the most fashionable lifestyle in China. In its own unique way, the city is the epitome of an international metropolis filled with glamour as well as drama. On another level, Shanghai is also the original birthplace of Cinematic Art in China, this provides the city a special position irreplaceable within the history and development of Chinese Cinema. In this uniquely rich context steeped in meaning and history, Shanghai Film Corporation (SFC) has launched their top cineplex called “MAISON MUSE by Shanghai Film” as one of their iconic flagship in the city for movie lovers as well as the movie industry players that gravitate towards Shanghai. The goal here is to create a unique branding for Shanghai Film with this concept of “MAISON MUSE” that will be uniquely artistic, international and contemporary at the same time.

Located at the mega-mall of Grand Gateway 66 in the commercial hub of Xujiahui at the southwest part of urban Shanghai, MAISON MUSE will create a totally new experience for the international movie-goers in Shanghai.


Simply put, MAISON MUSE, with its name from the word “Muse”, represents the source of all inspirations, artistic or otherwise, for the script writers, directors, producers, actors, set designers, musicians, cinematographers, sound editors, and every other conceivable industry players within the movie industry in Shanghai. On top, it is a pun on the word “Museum”, and the word “Amuse”, both essences contributing towards the design of this special cinema in Shanghai. After all, cinema is a legitimate art form which could only be fully appreciated by the public with the best facilities and within the best possible environment.

A Concept Gallery for Films

Inspired by Carlo Scarpa, contemporary artists, avant garde sculptors like Olafur Eliasson, Anish Kapoor, Joseph Dirand and many others, Maison Muse is a concept gallery for films. Arriving at the main lobby called Gallery MUSE which consists of the MUSE Box Office and Cafe Teasoon, one is immediately able to sense a big difference in spatial aesthetics of MUSE when compared to most other shopping mall cinemas. At arrival, one will experience a visionary space exuding an understated, warm & welcoming gesture whilst invoking an artistic and sophisticated effect to all customers or visitors alike. Patrons of the international crowd, famous celebs and discerning cinema-goers will be struck by the relatively quiet but strong artistic ambience in this “Front of House” Area. With references to iconic designs of the avant garde, this main entrance is a poetic construct realized with a series of complex planes and shapes in timber, stone & gold.

Conceived as a totally new approach in designing a never-before-seen type of Cinema, the concept here is to create MAISON MUSE as a cinematic as well as gallery-like landmark with a clear identity as the leader of the pack embodying a sophisticated lifestyle for the future in visual entertainment. Created as a Concept Gallery for Contemporary Art and also inspired by the Italian Avant Garde Fondazione Prada in Milan, this major ground-breaking cinema complex will be divided into four distinct zones.

Zone 1 – Gallery Muse

“Gallery Muse” is the Main Lobby consisting of the Box Office & the Cafe which is dominated by the stepped pyramid ceiling leading to artificial skylights and giant circular elements expressed as signage or abstract art pieces. The word Gallery signifies that a movie is an art form which must be appreciated in the right artistic environment.

Zone 2 – Long Studio

“Long Studio” is the long corridor space where the Concession Bar is located. This area resembles a relaxed exhibition area within an art gallery and also leads the cinema-goers to Studio 9 & 10. The word “Studio” implies that cinema art is like any other art forms requiring a lot of hard labor inside a production studio before it could become a reality.

Zone 3 – Blue Lab

“Blue Lab” is an operatic area in ultraviolet blue leading to the IMAX Xinema and Cinema Lab 7 & 8. Ther word “Lab” presents filem as a form of technology which must be constantly updated or else it will become obsolete. The origin of cinematography is an animated form of still photography, and the word “Lab” implies film as a form of art that is closely related to the darkrooms used in photography.

Back Wall of Concession Bar in Blue.

Zone 4 – Neon Loft

“Neon Loft” is an intense tunnel-like space dyed in fuchsia leading to most of the cinema houses. This area is very much inspired by the Avant Garder Cinema of the 80’s filled with this fantasu color that alludes toward a blissful tunnel with neon portals creating oblique reflections on high gloss wall surfaces.

The idea of “Loft” originates from a concept that films should best to be treated as part of our lives and one which cannot be sparated from our living environtment (in the form of an artist loft” for any filmakers or movie goers.

Here, the design intent is very clear and simple: to build a film culture museum so the process of enjoying any movie is like visiting an art gallery. In this respect, a lot of inspirations come from the spatial quality of modern art galleries and museums including Fondazione Prada.


Last but not least, one must not forget to mention the stunning Skyfall Restrooms, an original exploration in mixing hygiene with nature and technology.

The Camera Lens as Leitmotif

In terms of materials, only simple, approachable and art gallery like materials were adopted as the basis of the Gallery and Studio areas, such as white stone, paint, wood, gold, glass, so the space is simple enough to be filled with an atmosphere allowing for artistic display. When the audience walks into the Lab and Loft area however, they will experience an extreme contrast in colors. Ultraviolet blues and shocking fuchsia symbolize the emotional and passionate side of artistic and avant-garde films; the lighting becomes intensely more atmospheric, and this unique color and spatial set up produces a fundamental change that will lead the audience, in a subconscious way, to accept new movie concepts and experiences far more readily than otherwise.

The recurring circular elements which include giant signage, electronic poster boxes (or discs) and the huge golden half-circle, act as leitmotifs for the design. They are inspired by the transparent lens of the movie camera, which in turn symbolizes the quest for artistic perfection in the world of cinema, as well as the profound meaning of art interpreting life in this realm we call reality.

A Place of Passion for Cinema

Maison Muse by Shanghai Film will be a gallery for films; a museum of passion; an icon of sophistication — this powerful concept of innovative design encapsulating the meaning of cinematic art in the form of a gallery will be the first of its kind in China, a visually unprecedented cinema of pure originality, benchmarking the most ground-breaking & unparalleled cinema experience within Asia & beyond.

Interior Design by Alexander Wong Architects
Photography by Josh Takes Photos of Josh Tam Photography

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