Cinema architecture redefined in Teatro Vivo in São Paulo

Teatro Vivo is a cinema that brings a bit of magic to a central São Paulo mixed-use building

geometric purple seating in sao paulo teatro vivo, cinema architecture by Greg Bousquet
Teatro Vivo in São Paulo, by Greg Bousquet
(Image credit: Ricardo Bassetti)

Going to the cinema is an unrivalled experience of delving into a different world – a parallel reality of magic and fantasy. This is exactly the atmosphere that the Teatro Vivo, a brand new cinema architecture project in São Paulo, is aiming to achieve with its fresh design led by architect Greg Bousquet (who was with Triptyque Architecture before setting up his current practice AO-SP). 

Bousquet’s architecture team, which is currently based between Brazil and Portugal, had to work with an existing structure, as the movie theatre is located within Vivo, a mixed-use commercial building in the centre of São Paulo. ‘The challenge was to create a concept-theatre where we sought to value construction from pre-existing structures, which were left in evidence [while we provided] innovation through coatings, colours, textures, and lighting,’ the architects recall. 

teatro vivo cinema foyer, cinema architecture designed by Greg Bousquet

(Image credit: Ricardo Bassetti)

At the same time, the designers made sure to take into account the experience of visitors – the cinema-goers – and employees, who enter the space daily to help operate the cinema. Bousquet and his team chose to make the necessary distinctions between these uses through the clever lighting, differently illuminating areas according to their distinct functions.

In fact, lighting and colour were key elements in the design development throughout. Textures (the velvet curtains encountered in the foyer area, and the 272-seat screen room’s acoustic boards, for example) helped build the desired effect too.

Cinema architecture with a touch of magic

‘The theatre itself is divided into two universes,’ say the architects. ‘Above, acoustic boards in a reinterpretation of anechoic chambers, historically used for various purposes, have their use as a sound insulator re-established, and their graphic and aesthetic potential explored in the concert hall. The authenticity of the composition reveals the extensive research into acoustic techniques. The lower area of the room is covered in wood to reflect the sound and bring a feeling of comfort to spectators.’

The design combines powerful geometries, colour and a touch of magic, balancing the existing structure's pragmatic realities and demands with the thrill of the cinema screen. It is an example of how cinema architecture can elevate and transform, ‘demonstrating how art and technique meet’, the architects say.

main screen room in sao paulo's teatro vivo

(Image credit: Ricardo Bassetti)

detail of screen room with purple seating and concrete column in sao paulo cinema teatro vivo

(Image credit: Ricardo Bassetti)

foyer in bright light in sao paulo's teatro vivo

(Image credit: Ricardo Bassetti)

purple curtain in sao paulo's teatro vivo

(Image credit: Ricardo Bassetti)

foyer detail in sao paulo's teatro vivo

(Image credit: Ricardo Bassetti)


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).

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