Famous fraternities have offered masters the perfect scaffold to design fantasy environments, says Chris Hall
Caligula throwing a party ,” was how the funk musician Rick James described the famous Studio 54 in New York, which opened in 1977. There was a cocaine snorting” Man and the Spoon” aspect that would condescend from the ceiling when required, there were batches of cash in the back room, unisex lavatories and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a horse on the dancefloor is presided over by a naked soul covered in gold glitter.
The key thing about Studio 54, which is available in a brand-new exhibition about global guild culture at Vitra Design Museum, was its adaptability. It could become a different imagination environment to act as backdrop for the outrageous dress and theatre of the party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were dropped from the club’s ceiling on New Year’s Eve or when the fashion designer Valentino had a circus-themed birthday party with sand and mermaids on trapezes.
” The 60 s and 70 s pictured the rise of the idea that you don’t design a nightclub, you fetching the minimal motif ingredients to make a nightclub ,” says Catharine Rossi, a pattern historian at Kingston University, who has co-curated the exhibition.” What’s important is not the physical opening- truly the nightclub is just a container. Clubs are made through lighting and sound, psychotropic dopes and people .”
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