Exterior of Arthouse in Austin, TX

“Grand Paris Texas” And A Preview of Arthouse

AUSTIN – Arthouse renovations/expansion are nearly complete this week, as the fall season ramps up in Austin. The entire Arthouse staff has moved back into its 7th and Congress location, downtown (left). Although the front entrance to the new building isnt open for public (men are still hammering, making final touches), tours are under way.

I, too, visited the new/old Arthouse last week. Stunning features (see above and below) by Lewis Tsurumaki Lewis Architects include blue-green windows, which protrude from the buildings façade, lighting up at night; and with the Japanese-style rooftop deck, equipped to screen films en plein air. The architectural triumvirate made efforts to keep elements of the original theater such as cement columns, and decorative wall paintings. However, the bright yellow furniture on the roof coupled with the amazing view of downtown, are harbingers of whats new. Arthouses roof will make the hottest new perch in Austin.

Arthouse in Austin, TX

Arthouse in Austin, TX

Arthouse executive director, Sue Graze, introduced Swiss artists Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler at Paramount Theater, at an event Arthouse put on in cooperation with Lora Reynolds Gallery, on September 9th. Artists Hubbard and Birchler debuted their film, “Grand Paris Texas” at the Paramount (see below)-located directly across the street from Arthouse, which once was another film hall, Queen Theater. “Grand Paris Texas,” a film commissioned by the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, tells the story of a dilapidated theater in Paris, Texas — the Grand.

"Grand Paris, Texas" installation at  Paramount Theatre in Austin

"Grand Paris, Texas" installation at Paramount Theatre in Austin

It was fitting that Hubbard and Birchlers screening was held in the early 1900s Paramount — a  neo-classical building with triumphant frescoes lining the walls, ornate relief sculptures, and the mural of Saint Cecelia (painted in a mannerist style). To sit in the Paramount put the audience into the film, inside precisely the old theater that “Grand Paris Texass” storyline excavated.

Hubbard and Birchler focused on specific characters in the small town, firmly placing the film within the documentary genre. Characters like the longtime manager of the old cinema. The local film indie classic, “Paris, Texas” directed by Wim Wenders–was also a central theme in the film. Although “Paris, Texas” wasnt actually shot in Paris, “Grand Paris Texas” of course was.

After Hubbard, Birchler and film crew left Paris, the “Parisians” decided to renovate and salvage their historic theater. Hubbard considers this effort a victory. I concur.

Increasingly, I hope to see architects recycling elements from old buildings””blending old and new, rather than dismissing one for the other. The remnants of the Queen Theater incorporated into the Arthouse renovation add magnificent character to the new Arthouse building. If America stands a chance of aging gracefully, it would be imperative that we hold onto historic venues like the Paramount, and the movie theater in Paris.

(top image: Exterior of Arthouse at the Jones Center. Architecture by LTL Architects. Photo by Michael Moran Studio)

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