Famous fraternities have offered masters the perfect stage 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” aspect that would pitch from the ceiling when required, there were accumulations of cash in the back room, unisex bathrooms and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a horse on the dancefloor led by a naked human covered in gold glitter.
The key thing about Studio 54, which is available in a new show about world squad culture at Vitra Design Museum, was its adaptability. It could become a different fantasy environment to act as backdrop for the outrageous attires and theatre of the working party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were stopped 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 identified the rise of the idea that you don’t design a nightclub, you delivering the minimal pattern parts 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 beings .”
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