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Making the’ decadent autumn nature’ of nightclubs

Famous teams have offered artists the perfect pulpit to design fantasy contexts, says Chris Hall

Caligula throwing a party ,” was how the funk musician Rick James described the legendary Studio 54 in New York, which opened in 1977. There was a cocaine snorting” Man and the Spoon” aspect that would descend from the ceiling when required, there were batches of cash in the back room, unisex lavatories and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a mare on the dancefloor conducted in accordance with a naked person covered in gold glitter.

The key act about Studio 54, which is available in a brand-new show about world society culture at Vitra Design Museum, was its adaptability. It could become a different fantasy situation to act as backdrop for the appalling garbs and theatre of the working party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were sagged 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 watched the rise of the idea that you don’t design a nightclub, you making the negligible pattern elements to make a nightclub ,” says Catharine Rossi, a design historian at Kingston University, who has co-curated the exhibition.” What’s important is not the physical opening- genuinely the nightclub is just a receptacle. Clubs are made through illuminating and sound, psychotropic drugs and people .”

Interior
A home to crash: Manchester’s post-industrial Hacienda with hazard-marking stripes on the editorials. Photograph: Courtesy of Ben Kelly

A brand-new stage set would invigorate a new persona.” Historically, nightclubs have provided as cavities for freedom of expression and safe infinites because they’re obstructed ,” says Rossi.” They’re hidden from daytime norms and presumptions about behaviour and identity. At nighttime we can try out different identities .”

Playing with personas was something Andy Warhol was drawn to at Studio 54, where he would document this emerging culture with its transformative potentials. The society had a door policy where exclusively celebrities and the beautiful or unconventional were allowed in- those attempting their 15 instants of notoriety. This was a surreal, decadent, twilight nature and whether it was Truman Capote, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones or Andy Warhol, it was mutually beneficial, the society burnishing their image and vice versa.

The exhibition will be crammed with a fascinating capital of pattern detail to go with the photographs and models- interior furnishings, igniting, book layout, fashion, and the graphics of flyers and postings. One of the exhibition rooms will be allocated to a chime and igniting installation, without fairly being a mock-up of a nightclub.” If you’re going to do an exhibition about nightclubs ,” excuses Rossi,” then elements like flavor and knowledge are key parts of the design of the spaces and how that pattern is destroyed or known .”

Nightclub
Staying cool: the Philippe Starck-designed Les Bains Douches in Paris. Photograph: Foc Kan

In the 70 s and 80 s, New York golf-clubs, such as Area, Club 57, the Mudd Club, Paradise Garage and the Palladium, offered a creative stage to creators. Nightclubs became galleries. Keith Haring designed flyers and biddings, organized exhibitions and facilities, and decorated a huge mural inside the Palladium. His canvas was also the human body, painting Grace Jones with his signature kinetic moves for a live action at Paradise Garage in New York in 1985.

Another famous guild that boasts heavily in the exhibition is the Hacienda in Manchester, with its innovative post-industrial design.” Nightclubs have evolved in line with the changing nature of our municipalities ,” says Rossi.” In the 1980 s for example, the post-industrial city led to the opening up of openings from warehouses to plants .” Whereas Studio 54 was about exclusivity and decadence, the Hacienda was about inclusivity and a different kind of escapism. In short, it was the difference between cocaine and ecstasy.

Ben Kelly, who designed the Hacienda, says that it seemed logical to him to use the visual conversation of factory interiors given that it was a former ship showroom and had an industrial feel.” There was a line of columns extending through the room, which inevitably would be hazardous where people were drinking and dancing. I placed stripes normally used as hazard tags in the workplace on the editorials in the nightclub, and yellow-and-black stripes on to the riser of the stage. There was another safety issue getting on and off the parent dance storey, so I exploited roadside bollards and place cat’s gazes into the concrete floor. The industrial usage derived through practical reasons .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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