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Composing the’ decadent twilight nature’ of nightclubs

Famous guilds have offered creators the perfect scaffold to design fantasy environments, says Chris Hall

Caligula throwing “states parties ” ,” 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 were accumulations of cash in the back room, unisex lavatories and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a horse on the dancefloor led by a naked gentleman covered in gold glitter.

The key thing about Studio 54, which is available in a new exhibit about world squad 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 working party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were descended 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 appreciated the rise of the idea that you don’t design a nightclub, you creating the negligible intend elements to make a nightclub ,” says Catharine Rossi, a layout historian at Kingston University, who has co-curated the exhibition.” What’s important is not the physical infinite- truly the nightclub is just a container. Clubs are made through igniting and sound, psychotropic medications and parties .”

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

A brand-new stage set would induce a new persona.” Historically, nightclubs have acted as seats for freedom of expression and safe spaces because they’re obscured ,” says Rossi.” They’re veiled 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 prospects. The club had a door policy where only celebrities and the beautiful or unconventional were allowed in- those attempting their 15 hours of renown. This was a surreal, decadent, twilight world-wide and whether it was Truman Capote, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones or Andy Warhol, it was mutually beneficial, the squad burnishing their persona and vice versa.

The exhibition will be crammed with a fascinating abundance of designing detail to go with the photographs and frameworks- interior furnishings, illuminating, book motif, manner, and the graphics of flyers and signs. One of the exhibition chambers will be devoted to a resound and lighting facility, without quite being a mock-up of a nightclub.” If you’re going to do an exhibition about nightclubs ,” shows Rossi,” then elements like environment and know-how are key parts of the design of the seats and how that layout is spent or known .”

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

In the 70 s and 80 s, New York societies, such as Area, Club 57, the Mudd Club, Paradise Garage and the Palladium, offered a creative platform to artists. Nightclubs became galleries. Keith Haring designed flyers and biddings, set exhibits and facilities, and decorated a huge mural inside the Palladium. His canvas was also the human body, coating Grace Jones with his signature kinetic gleans for a live recital at Paradise Garage in New York in 1985.

Another legendary club that peculiarity heavily in the exhibition is the Hacienda in Manchester, with its innovative post-industrial design.” Nightclubs have derived 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 rooms from warehouses to plants .” 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 speech of mill interiors given that it was a former yacht showroom and had an industrial feel.” There was a line of towers flowing through the cavity, which inevitably would be hazardous where people were drinking and dancing. I set stripes normally used as hazard distinguishes in the workplace on the pillars 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 raised dance storey, so I use roadside bollards and prepare cat’s eyes into the concrete storey. The industrial usage evolved through practical reasons .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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