Choosing the Perfect Custom Laminate for a One-of-a-Kind Film School

Brooklyn College Formica Envision

Choosing the Perfect Custom Laminate for a One-of-a-Kind Film School

Mia Lee, AIA, found a unique solution for the Brooklyn College Film School with Formica Envision™ Custom Laminate

The Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, an extension of the Film Department at Brooklyn College, is truly a school of firsts. It’s the first public graduate film school in the United States. It’s the first program division of Brooklyn College hosted off campus. And it’s the only public graduate school in the nation integrated into a working film lot, occupying the top two floors of a Steiner Studios building in the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard.

“What made this particular project so special is that it’s within a historic building on a working film lot; students would be rubbing elbows with people in the film industry every day,” said Mia Lee, AIA, Senior Associate and Studio Director at Dattner Architects. “We wanted to provide them quality production and editing studios that matched the professional nature of their surroundings.”

For Lee, the opportunity to create an environment for students to be among peers is a reflection of her own journey into the world of architecture and design.

“I was studying engineering in college and I felt like something was missing. I added Art as a second major, and my advisor said, ‘I think maybe you want to pursue architecture,’” Lee remembers. “I went on to get my Masters of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. Once I met my fellow architecture students, I realized ‘these are my people.’ It really felt like home.”

But how could Lee recreate those same feelings of community and inclusion for the students of this new film school, which was miles away from the Brooklyn College campus?

It all starts with the stairs.

Brooklyn College Formica Envision

“As you enter the school, the stairs are the first thing you experience,” Lee said. “Creating a feeling of campus within the building is hugely important for this remote location, and the stairs are designed to serve multiple group functions: a connector, a gathering area, a presentation and critique space, and an informal lecture space.”

At the top of the stairs is an open multifunctional space with views stretching beyond Hudson Bay into Manhattan. But the side wall of the staircase allowed Lee and her team to add a unique touch to the lobby with Formica Envision™ Custom Laminate.

“We knew we wanted some kind of super graphic, something reminiscent of a black and white film that wasn’t necessarily mainstream, but rather a bit more mysterious,” Lee said. “And we didn’t just want to do a wall graphic; we really wanted to do something that was going to be integral to the architecture and that would last a long time. That’s why we chose the custom offering from Formica.”

Lee’s team landed on a scene from Intolerance, a 1916 film by D.W. Griffith that is regarded as one of the most influential films of the silent era. In the scene, motherly figures are depicted in both dramatic lighting cascading from above and as shadowy figures in the background. 

“The vision was to give the vibe of Golden Age cinema in a black and white finish,” Lee said. “By using the custom laminate, we were able to capture both the mood and dramatic lighting found within the scene as a durable surface that is built to last.”

That classical cinema vibe is continued throughout the two floors, with Formica Envision™ murals extending through the main entry and into the upstairs gathering areas. The dark, shadowy murals are offset by white Formica ColorCore®2 Laminate furniture, furthering the black-and-white feel.

With the custom laminate, the mixing of student and professional film makers, and the statement staircase with breathtaking views, it’s easy to see why this one-of-a-kind project rises to the top of another list:

“This is without a doubt my favorite project of all time,” Lee said. 

For more information on Formica Envision™ click here.  

Brooklyn College Formica Envision

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