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Generating the’ decadent twilight macrocosm’ of nightclubs

Famous guilds have offered artists the perfect platform to design fantasy surroundings, says Chris Hall

Caligula throwing a party ,” was how the funk musician Rick James described the famed 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 where necessary, “therere” slews of cash in the back room, unisex bathrooms and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a pony on the dancefloor led by a naked soul covered in gold glitter.

The key stuff about Studio 54, which features in a new exhibition about global organization culture at Vitra Design Museum, was its adaptability. It could become a different fiction home to act as backdrop for the scandalous outfits and theatre of the party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were plummeted 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 drawing the minimal pattern components 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 infinite- genuinely the nightclub is just a receptacle. Clubs are made through igniting and sound, psychotropic pharmaceuticals and beings .”

A situate to gate-crash: Manchester’s post-industrial Hacienda with hazard-marking stripes on the columns. Photograph: Courtesy of Ben Kelly

A new stage set would induce a new persona.” Historically, nightclubs have acted as spaces for freedom of expression and safe openings because they’re disguised ,” says Rossi.” They’re obscured from daytime standards and beliefs about behaviour and identity. At darknes 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 possibilities. The association had a door policy where merely celebrities and the beautiful or unconventional were allowed in- those seeking their 15 instants of renown. This was a surreal, decadent, twilight macrocosm and whether it was Truman Capote, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones or Andy Warhol, it was mutually beneficial, the golf-club burnishing their portrait and vice versa.

The exhibition will be crammed with a fascinating abundance of designing detail to go with the photographs and prototypes- interior furnishings, igniting, book pattern, mode, and the graphics of flyers and signs. One of the exhibition chambers will be allocated to a clang and illuminating installing, without quite being a mock-up of a nightclub.” If you’re going to do an exhibit about nightclubs ,” illustrates Rossi,” then elements like sky and event are key parts of the design of the openings and how that layout is eaten or knowledge .”

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

In the 70 s and 80 s, New York associations, such as Area, Club 57, the Mudd Club, Paradise Garage and the Palladium, offered a artistic scaffold to masters. Nightclubs became galleries. Keith Haring designed flyers and requests, arranged exhibits and installings, and painted a huge mural inside the Palladium. His canvas was also the human body, covering Grace Jones with his signature kinetic traces for a live conduct at Paradise Garage in New York in 1985.

Another famous team that peculiarity heavily in the exhibition is the Hacienda in Manchester, with its innovative post-industrial design.” Nightclubs have advanced in line with the changing nature of our metropolis ,” says Rossi.” In the 1980 s for example, the post-industrial city led to the opening up of rooms from warehouses to factories .” Whereas Studio 54 was about exclusivity and debasement, 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 communication of mill interiors given that it was a former boat showroom and had an industrial feel.” There was a line of columns leading through the seat, which inevitably would be hazardous where people were boozing and dancing. I placed stripes normally used as hazard commemorates in the workplace on the articles 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 created dance flooring, so I use roadside bollards and mount cat’s sees into the concrete floor. The industrial language advanced through practical reasons .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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