Salone at Night: Designing the Perfect Party

Published April 20, 2012

The three-ring style circus that is the Salone del Mobile, Milan’s annual international furniture fair and all-around carnival of design, got a new sideshow this year, with the debut of a high-concept pop-up nightclub in the former industrial district of Tortona. 19 young, international designers working in the fields of fashion, interiors, graphics, and product design, collaborated on The Club, a 2,600-square-foot space.

From the sound system, to the lighting, to the uniforms of the 25-person wait staff, the ad hoc design collective has fashioned a total nightlife environment, complete with interactive displays, live performances, and more.

The five American contributors, all New York-based, were chosen through a rigorous search conducted by Heineken, which is sponsoring the event as part of a new design-focused initiative. Lee Gibson, a New Zealand-born architect currently based in Brooklyn, was among the lucky few, and he describes how he and his colleagues were pulled swiftly into an unusual research process. “It involved going out and seeing different nightclubs and talking about what worked and what didn’t,” says Lee. The interdisciplinary gang hit various clubs around the five boroughs, then drew on their experiences to create a hotspot of their own.

What they ended up with is a sequence of spaces fostering distinct kinds of social interaction. A series of seating platforms, each labeled with a different personality type (“heavy thinker,” “young designer”), makes up a conversation-oriented lounge area; the dance floor is backed by a tall lattice structure into which patrons can place their beers. The whole ensemble is tied together with an origami-inspired visual theme, with kaleidoscopic surfaces and tesserated forms at every turn.

Then there’s the entertainment. Adam Aleksander has made a career of hosting elaborate themed parties in New York, and he took charge of the space’s program. “I’ve got truth-or-dare girls walking through and engaging strangers with really funny Polaroid cameras,” says Alexsander. “Then we’re going to have a three- or four-person performance crew doing a Vogue-off.”

For Alexsander, it’s all about making this experiment in nightlife a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “That’s what I wanted to bring to the club,” he says. “To make people remember this.”