The magic of film lies in its ability to immerse an audience in a particular time and place. When a cinema is itself designed to possess the same transportive quality, the experience is only amplified. At the newly reopened Yorck Kino Passage in Berlin, movie-goers have the unique opportunity to step back in time. Recently renovated by local firm BATEK ARCHITEKTEN, the cinema’s reimagined interior celebrates the building’s neoclassical character. The restoration project marks the third Yorck cinema to be designed by the firm, following the Delphi Lux and Blauer Stern theatres.
Erected in the borough of Neukölln in 1908 as the Rixdorfer Gesellschaftshaus, the building’s first-floor auditorium was converted into the Excelsior cinema two years later. In recognition of the theatre’s notable urban role as a passageway between the thoroughfares of Karl-Marx-Strasse and Richardstrasse, it was aptly renamed the Passage in 1920.
The neo-classical building’s arched windows, shown behind the cinema’s marquee sign, inspired the design of the concession stand.
Though the theatre survived two world wars, the construction of the Berlin Wall coupled with the advent of colour television, led to the sudden downfall of Berlin’s film industry. As a result, the theatre closed in 1968 and was repurposed as a furniture warehouse.
Two decades later, in 1989, the Yorck Group stepped in to restore the theatre to its former glory, adding three additional screens to the original cinema hall. Now, in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns, the building is experiencing a second renaissance. According to the designers, the goal was to “let the beauty of the existing space shine once again whilst adapting it to the requirements of a contemporary cinema audience.”
The resulting interior strikes the perfect balance between preservation and intervention. A nostalgic yet contemporary aesthetic is evident as soon as one enters the foyer, where the concession stand’s playful, pistachio green form draws on the façade’s prominent arched windows. The green theme continues with a wall of sumptuous banquette seating, upholstered in a sage-coloured velvet.
The verdant hues are complemented by the earthy terracotta tones of the retro linoleum flooring, preserved from the original design. To the left of the snack counter, a pragmatic cork-covered cupboard offers additional storage and serves as a bulletin board for hanging posters and other notices.
Corten steel cladding from the original bar has also been repurposed as panelling, edging, and fitting components. Above the new countertop, hangs a refurbished brass lighting fixture, which adds a sculptural element to the space and illuminates the ceiling’s meticulously restored plaster mouldings.
BATEK ARCHITEKTEN embraced traditional design motifs in the first of the two redesigned cinemas. Taking a monochromatic approach, the screening room reinterprets the red hues of iconic theatre interiors, adding a touch of modern flair with vertical strip lighting.
In the second cinema, however, the designers opted for a bold contrasting colour palette. Here, vibrant yellow seating is offset by luxurious fabric walls in rich Prussian blue. The design overhaul was not just an aesthetic exercise but a functional one; both cinemas were also outfitted with new podiums to optimize visibility.
In the digital age, film is now accessible virtually anywhere with the click of a button. Despite the convenience, for most, this access does not come with the full cinema-going experience. With their sensitive renovation, BATEK ARCHITEKTEN has revived the cinema as a cultural destination — and made a strong case for a return to theatres.