The first commercial venture for HB Design, this was (like the Joyce Boutique) the result of an introduction from Hans’ brother, a banker in Hong Kong. A young group was trying to build a series of cineplexes in China called Studio City and HB Design designed this one for them in Wuhan and another one in Shanghai. Wuhan also involved an 800- seat Beijing Opera venue. It represented an early learning experience, not only about how such a business works, but also how the building industry works.

The driving element was the design of the concessions area as a path snaking through the middle of the floorplate. This was less a design decision than one determined by the location of the concessions (food outlets) which are crucial revenue generators in a cinema – “an exercise in commercial reality”. The curved walkway was separated from the games area by an undulating metal wall – weaving its way both in plan and vertically – with steel fins. Each fin was unique, cut to fit the panels Every fin was fabricated to match the curve and lit by customised lighting. This was “easy to design, but difficult to make” and succeeded by way of painstaking craftsmanship.

This was another early lesson in the fact that a design is only as good as the architect’s ability to get it made. Often fabrication challenges are met by lateral thinking and unearthing craftsmen whose skills can be adapted to a new need. In this case, the ceiling of the opera space was made by a local car body manufacturer, while the ‘moebius’ wall through the concessions area was hand-made (due to the lack of computer numerical control), panel by panel, with the perforations each drilled out by hand.