Wachowskis’ Kinowerks the best of green technology

Kinowerks’ modern interior design and furnishings blend with recycled paneling and floors. Photos: VOA Associates

New York’s billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently gave a $6 million grant to Mayor Rahm Emanuel to use for various city programs. One of them is finding ways to create greater energy savings, a top item on Emanuel’s agenda for a greener Chicago.  

But when it comes to green buildings, however, few can compare with Lana and Andy Wachowski’s environmentally efficient Ravenswood Kinowerks postproduction and effects studio.

Unlike in The Matrix, where the energy source emanates from machines’ body heat and electrical sources, Kinowerks relies on  state-of-the-art energy saving installations.

Cases full of industry awards preside over a recycled glass floor.

In 2007, when the Wachowskis purchased their one-story, 20,000-sq. ft. building from Ravenswood Studios, they envisioned Kinowerks as “a remodel of an existing industrial building that cleverly folds sustainable design elements into a highly sophisticated movie production studio.” 

To achieve their vision, they hired VOA Associates, Incorporated, the distinguished Chicago-based, international architectural firm. The Wachowskis invested $6.8 million to make the building environmentally responsible, literally, from the ground up.

The spacious studio interior has editing suites, a sound studio, a green screen studio, a 409-seat screening room, offices, conference room, an Italian cafe/lounge and an indoor basketball court. 

A considerable amount of the interior and furnishings were constructed from recycled materials. Some of the office walls are wood panels sliced from a giant log dredged up from the bottom of Lake Superior.  Sparkling recycled glass in black and white hues is used for flooring in the entryway and other areas.  

The conference table is made with recycled circuitry boards, flanked by flat screen TVs and movie artifacts.

Energy efficiency comes from the solar powered roof

The roof is accessible via a one-stop, two-passenger pneumatic elevator, shaped like a cylinder and covered in sculptured metal mesh-like material. 

The 2-passenger, mesh curtained elevator to the green roof

The old roof was replaced with a 1,500-sq. ft. green roof, full of vegetation. Rainwater is collected for irrigation of the roof’s plant life. 

To provide 30kW of solar power, 150 photovoltaic (PV) cells, which convert the energy of light into electricity, were added to the roof.  

The PV array is tied into the electrical grid via solar inverters, a type of electrical inverter made to convert DC current into AC.  A daily energy yield at Kinowerks can be tracked online, via the inverter manufacturer’s website.

Last year, the building’s innovative design won a coveted a LEED Gold rating for energy and environment design from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The building also has been nominated for other environmental several awards.  It was a finalist for the Chicago Building Congress’ 2011 Merit Awards and an American Institute of Architects nominee for Divine Detail Award in 2009 and 2010.

Recycled circuit boards form the conference tablesCome September, the Wachowskis will start production on Cloud Atlas, a $100 million-budgeted sci fi epic for Warner Bros. Directors are Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, who co-wrote with Andy Wachowski.  It stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon and Jim Broadbent.

Cloud Atlas will be the sibling’s 22nd movie since their 1995 Assassins, starring Sylvester Stallone and Julianne Moore, which they wrote.  With three other films in the pipeline, Kinowerks will continue to be a very busy studio for the foreseeable future. 

Ravenswood Kinowerks is located at 5645 N. Ravenswood.