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Developing the’ decadent twilight world-wide’ of nightclubs

Famous fraternities have offered masters the perfect programme to design fantasy environs, 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” feature that would sink from the ceiling where needed, there are still pilings of cash in the back chamber, unisex lavatories and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a mare on the dancefloor is presided over by a naked guy covered in gold glitter.

The key thing about Studio 54, which is available in a new show about world-wide fraternity culture at Vitra Design Museum, was its adaptability. It could become a different fantasy surrounding to act as backdrop for the outrageous clothings and theatre of the working party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were plunged 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 accompanied the increase of the idea that you don’t design a nightclub, you bringing the negligible blueprint ingredients 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 room- certainly the nightclub is just a container. Clubs are made through igniting and sound, psychotropic dopes and people .”

A place to crash: Manchester’s post-industrial Hacienda with hazard-marking stripes on the columns. 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 openings because they’re obscured ,” says Rossi.” They’re obscure from daytime standards and presuppositions about behaviour and identity. At night 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 club had a door policy where merely celebrities and the beautiful or unconventional were allowed in- those seeking their 15 minutes of notoriety. This was a surreal, decadent, sunset nature and whether it was Truman Capote, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones or Andy Warhol, it was mutually beneficial, the organization burnishing their portrait and vice versa.

The exhibition will be crammed with a fascinating wealth of motif detail to go with the photographs and models- interior furnishings, illuminating, book layout, mode, and the graphics of flyers and postings. One of the exhibition chambers will be given to a announce and igniting facility, without quite being a mock-up of a nightclub.” If you’re going to do an exhibit about nightclubs ,” explains Rossi,” then elements like environment and suffer are key parts of the design of the spaces and how that intend is depleted or suffered .”

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

In the 70 s and 80 s, New York squads, such as Area, Club 57, the Mudd Club, Paradise Garage and the Palladium, offered a inventive programme to artists. Nightclubs became galleries. Keith Haring designed flyers and invitations, organized exhibitions and stations, and covered a huge mural inside the Palladium. His canvas was also the human body, painting Grace Jones with his signature kinetic gleans for a live rendition at Paradise Garage in New York in 1985.

Another legendary team that peculiarity 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 cities ,” says Rossi.” In the 1980 s for example, the post-industrial city led to the opening up of seats from warehouses to mills .” 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 language of factory interiors given that it was a former boat showroom and had an industrial feel.” There was a line of lines flowing through the cavity, which unavoidably would be hazardous where people were drinking and dancing. I gave stripes normally used as hazard markers 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 parent dance storey, so I applied roadside bollards and adjust cat’s attentions into the concrete storey. The industrial language derived through practical reasons .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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