The Floating Cinema

Studio Weave, London, 2011


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  • Plan - steelwork base    
  • Steelwork    
  • Steelwork    
  • Elevation - fabric    
  • Elevations - steelwork    
  • Long elevation - steelwork    
  • Plan - fabric    
  • Plan - fabric - unrolled    
  • Plan - steelwork    
  • Existing base boat    
  • Existing interior    
  • Steel fabrication    
  • Steelwork installation    

The Floating Cinema is a project to create a floating structure to accommodate intimate on-board film screenings, larger outdoor film events and provide a base for film related activities.

The Floating Cinema is a project to create a floating structure to accommodate intimate on-board film screenings, larger outdoor film events and provide a base for film related activities led by artists Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie (known collectively as Somewhere). The structure navigated the waterways of the five Olympic host boroughs during the summer of 2011.

The Floating Cinema offered a vibrant and varied events programme including screen-acting and film-making workshops. Expert tours and talks were also on offer including a ‘botanical busk’ hosted by renowned nature writer Richard Mabey, and a collaboration with Barbican delved into urban architecture, animation and graffiti. The whole programme launched with a ‘movie mash-up’ party on the 1 July, and subsequent large-scale outdoor film events included evenings at Three Mills Studios and Canary Wharf, and screenings of Somewhere’s new films projected from the Floating Cinema onto architecture around the waterways. Drop in open days were be on offer every Thursday during July and August and featured a range of on board film screenings.

Base Boat

To create the Floating Cinema we refurbished and re-imagined an old work boat. The existing boat was 6.5 feet wide by 52 feet long and consisted of two enclosed cabins at either end, a 14 foot long glass-fronted interior space, and a 12 foot length which was completely open to the elements. The existing boat had an engine which allowed the cinema to move around the canals autonomously.

The Cinema Interior

The 6’ x 14’ glass-fronted interior space became the cinema itself. We worked closely with local makers to create the interior fixtures and fittings. A furniture maker made 12 bespoke flip-up cinema seats that allow 12 people (the maximum number permitted by licensing) to sit comfortably and either face forward towards a screen at one end, or face each other for workshops and seminars. These seats are made from reclaimed oak tabletops and are designed to fold away and flip up to allow this small space to be cleared for non-seated events. A textile designer made removable upholstery cushions for the seats to ensure comfort during feature-length films or longer journeys; and black-out fabric curtains which have an intricate smocking structure creating the sense of luxury and glamour associated with cinemas, even on this small boat.

The Quilted Structure

In contrast to the utilitarian, crisp structure of the existing boat, we designed a soft quilted canopy over the open space to create a semi-outdoor area adjacent to the cinema room. This space is used as an entrance lobby and spill-out space during screenings and workshops, and also as an outdoor viewing area protected from the elements for admiring the landscape when the boat is on the move.

The structure consists of a treacletart-like lattice made from steel tubes, that supports a soft quilt (aka “the puff”) made from sail fabric, Weathermax. We also worked with an illustrator who designed a unique pattern which is silk screen printed onto the puff. The pattern draws inspiration from Art Deco, a style strongly associated with both boats and cinemas, and Roses and Castles, the traditional narrow-boat decoration style.

The pattern encapsulates the nature of the project as a whole: an extraordinary melange of diverse functions and characteristics that come together to form an unusual and expressive creation.


  • Begun: Apr 2011
  • Completed: Jul 2011
  • Floor area: 15m2
  • Sector: Arts and culture
  • Total cost: £18,000
  • Tender date: Mar 2011
  • Address: London's Canal Network, London, N/A, United Kingdom

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