The drive-in movie theater may be a uniquely North American institution, but the icon of the wide-open American landscape recently experienced its most heroic revival in Thailand, leaping forth from its humble, grounded origins and into the clear blue waters of Nai Pi Lae lagoon on Kudu Island. For the final night of the Film on the Rocks Yao Noi Festival earlier this month, guests were taken by boat to savor a final screening on a floating cinema designed by Beijing-based architect Ole Scheeren. Scheeren’s Archipelago Cinema consisted of a floating screen, cradled between two towering rocks, and a separate raft-like auditorium, together offering a spiritual and vaguely primordial cinematic experience.
Scheeren described the project rather poetically as “A screen, nestled somewhere between the rocks. And the audience…floating…hovering above the sea, somewhere in the middle of this incredible space of the lagoon, focused on the moving images across the water: a sense of temporality, randomness, almost like driftwood. Or maybe something more architectural: modular pieces, loosely assembled, like a group of little islands that congregate to form an auditorium."
Though the floating drive-in departs significantly from its American vernacular counterpart, the project adopted vernacular Thai building practices, gleaning techniques used by local fishermen to construct floating lobster farms. The cinema was crafted out of recycled materials, and its modular construction allows for flexibility and future reuse. In fact, after its run as a theater, Archipelago Cinema will be dismantled and donated to the community of Yao Noi as a playground and floating stage.
This post originally appeared on Architizer, an Atlantic partner site.