Rise Design Studio has refurbished and extended the Lexi Cinema in Kensal Rise, adding a second screen and bar to expand the venue’s offering.


Henry Woide


The Lexi Cinema hoped to install a beer garden to take the place of an improvised bar set up by residents, but when this was rejected by Brent Council due to noise constraints, the addition of a second screen with a small bar sandwiched between the two was settled on.

Local practice Rise Design Studio, which had been advertising its services before screenings was brought on board by Lexi Cinema founder Sally Wilton to develop the scheme. A two year fundraising journey brought in contributions from the local community, Brent Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy and £50,000 from the Mayor of London’s community fund – the largest donation to be given by the office. Work began in July 2020 and completed earlier this summer.


An extension designed by Rise Design Studio and known as The Lexi Hub, extends into a carpark to the rear of the Edwardian building and is partially sunken below ground with its visual portion covered in a range of camouflaging features that aim to embed the structure in its residential context. A body of London stock brick and patches of timber cladding reference the housing and gardens that creep right up to the boundary of the cinema, while panels of buffed stainless steel reflect changing light and the roof is planted with wildflower.

An existing skylit side extension connecting the front of the cinema with the existing bar and snack stand – vital to the cinema’s revenue – was difficult to navigate. A new comprehensive colour scheme and wayfinding system now steers viewers through the “rabbit warren” space. Pink walls and an “unfinished” plaster ceiling visually links the lobby areas of the cinema, while the screening rooms are finished in rich jewel tones. Screen two – housed within the extension – has been fitted with banks of plush emerald green seats, while screen one, which experienced severe smoke damage during an electrical fire mid-project, has been revamped with navy blue walls that make the most of a Bruce Munro light installation.

The extra screen has allowed the venue – London’s only social enterprise cinema – to expand its offering to the local community. The theatre is regularly hired for private events and also hosts dedicated family and accessible screenings as part of its programme.  “It wasn’t just a second screen. It was going to allow all of our community work to continue,” said Wilton during a tour of the building.

“The Lexi Hub marks the next phase in our capacity to contribute to our beloved neighbourhood and the ecological charities we support. RISE Design Studio supported the project from the outset, bringing environmental expertise and creativity to the Hub to create a space that allows us to increase our public programme offering and keep serving our local community.”

“The Lexi Cinema holds a special position in the Kensal Rise community, so we approached the project as an opportunity to contribute to both the built environment and social lifeblood of the area,” adds Rise Design Studio director Sean Ronnie Hill. “An exercise in community partnership, The Lexi Hub has been designed to respect its neighbours while providing them with invaluable space to gather, learn, contribute, connect, and relax.”

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