Hong Kong’s already vibrant and versatile bar scene keeps receiving additions that would be right at home in any large global hub. In the Central business district, chock-full of banks, the design-aware and quality-conscious financial wizards now have yet another bar/club where they can spend all those gazillions.
The whiskey bar foxglove, at the Printing House on Duddell Street, is the second bar opened by the Ming Fat House owner team of Jonathan Bui (a Canadian), Eric Lam (an American) and Shakib Pasha (from Hong Kong.)
To provide an environment worthy of their demanding prospective patrons, they invited local architect Nelson Chow Chi-Wai, principal and founder of NC Design & Architecture, to iterate the story of a wealthy adventurer, Frank Minza who, as the owners coyly say, may or may not be a fictional character. To thicken the plot they add that he was the illegitimate son of a somewhat luckless entrepreneur from Hong Kong’s colonial days.
So there is a touch of high-end shadiness and secrecy in foxglove that really is a lovely hybrid: A masculine combo of an ocean liner, airplane, gentlemen’s club and speakeasy.
The entrance isn’t just a plain old door, in fact there is no bar entrance visible. Instead, you walk into an umbrella shop where exquisite specimens of luxury brollies are displayed in custom-design glass cabinets. Find the right silver handle, touch it, and a secret door opens to the ‘air plane’ that seats 80. A marble-topped cocktail bar connects to the dining section.
A VIP room seats 32 guests and resembles a first-class dining car of a luxury train and the VVIP room brings you to an intimate gentleman’s library where time seems to have stopped and money is still made of paper.
The owner’s first Hong Kong bar, Mrs. Pound, opened a year ago in Sheung Wan. It tested the secret speakeasy entrance concept by offering a Chinese stamp shop as the entry environment. In that case, the story tells that Mrs.
Pound was a burlesque dancer who fell in love with a Chinese stamp shop owner. In an interview, Jonathan Bui was quoted as saying that the hidden entrance and secrecy work especially well in Hong Kong because “it is so different from the typical in-your-face shopfronts.” - Tuija Seipell.
Photography: Dennis Lo Designs
This time, we are fascinated by the classy drama she’s created in the Le Roy nightclub and ball room/party space located on the second floor at the König corner (the corner named after the well-established, storied restaurant König) in Helsinki.
Much of the corner in downtown Helsinki’s main restaurant area has been under renovation and several restaurants have now re-opened. Among them is not just the second-floor Le Roy but also Michel downstairs, also designed by Laajisto and owned by the Center-Inn group that operates over a dozen restaurants in Helsinki.
Le Roy opened just in time for the serious party-time kick-off of First of May this year. Laajisto has retained the character of the original building, designed in 1982 by architect Karl August Wrede. Wrede was the architect of the entire passage located between the North Esplanade and Aleksanterinkatu streets and known as the Old Trade Passage, and in more recent years as the “Granny Tunnel” referring to the ladies of certain age spending time sipping bubbly in the many restaurants.
Laajisto has allowed the large windows of the building to dictate much of the feel of the space. There is more natural light than in a typical night club and her lighting choices add to the dramatic play of dark and light.
The dark wood flooring, wood paneling, dark-hued furnishings and original fittings, such as mirrors and sconces, are beautifully enhanced by the natural light with the overall effect suggesting a space that has known many stories and parties in the past of the capital city.
Laajisto selected the additional lighting from the collections of the Swedish Rubn and London-based (and Germany and Sweden manufactured) Atelier Areti. Some lighting fixtures were custom-created for Le Roy.
For as long as architecture and music have coexisted they have been far more dependent on each other than one may have initially realized. There is an equidistance between how architecture has shaped the evolution of music and how music has done the same for architecture.
It’s the notion of harmony within spaces, that essential idea that the engrained harmony and vibrancy that flows through a space then goes on to give that overall place a particular identity and then in the reverse order.
As early as the 1400’s architects would use music to define structure for the most beautiful of building types.
Renaissance architect Leon Battista Alberti described it in this way;
“We shall therefore borrow all our Rules for Finishing our Proportions, from the Musicians, who are the greatest Masters of this Sort of Numbers, and from those Things wherein Nature shows herself most excellent and compleat.”
On the flipside to this, time has seen music progressively adapting to fit the containers in which it is being exhibited in, hence the birth of electronic music and stadium rock.
So how does this all relate to a somewhat hidden nightclub tucked away within a laneway in Melbourne’s CBD? The answer to that is it’s a further continuation of this evolutionary partnership between the worlds of music and design.
It’s ‘Bond’, a place built upon bold spaces, bold design and bold harmonies which evoke a sense of confidence, as if you’ve ordered a martini shaken not stirred and are playing it effortlessly cool.
The sleek lines and curvature in the design mimic the music which pulsates from wall to wall and overtime as the music has evolved so has the place, into a sophisticated sub-ground lair with just the right amount of retro edge.
Most impressively Bond holds a particular contextual importance as it is attached to an inner-city carpark facility, notoriously known as the big ugly villain with metal teeth within any city. Yet this carpark has now become the beautiful woman sitting at the bar with a hidden mystery.
Bond’s interior layout combines the fluidity, openness and vibrancy of an amphitheater with intimate corners, enclosed booths, and numerous private settings, brought to life by state of the art lighting and sound and custom made furnishings.
This kind of execution doesn’t come about cheap nor does it occur without the work of a design team which appreciates the harmonies and spaces within a place.
Fady Hachem of Melbourne-based design and architectural studio ‘Hachem’ first encountered Bond as 21-year-old graduate from RMIT, where he managed to do what any other student would struggle to and convince the then owners to let him develop the interior concepts, bold brand development and manage their sites $2m overhaul.
As does music and architecture go in circles drawing from the old to create new so has Bond. Hachem many years later was re-commissioned to do a $5m refurbishment creating an interior layout that is so far removed from anything you’ve seen in Melbourne, evoking a feeling of escapism and luxury. Ironically it does feel like you’re on the movie set for the latest James Bond film.
By creating a multi-functional space, Bond is now capable of catering to a wider variety of clientele. The bar promotes a New York styled bottle service and punters can enjoy a $50,000 exclusive experience that comes with helicopter rides, a personal chauffeur, masseuse, private waitresses to Cuban cigars and a range of drinks such as a personalised 15L bottle of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label and Bond edition Bollinger. Very Bond indeed!
Bond is more than a nightclub or a bar, its architectural elegance meets ultimate nightlife experience and has set the tone for future design within its field in Australia. To experience the harmonies, spaces and place visit Bond at 16-24 Bond St, Melbourne. - David Mousa
With his IO Studio, established in 2007, Czech architect Luka Krížek has created several notable hospitality projects.
His beer bar at Brandýs nad Labem (near Prague) for Radegast is the first of a potential chain of bars for the famous brand. Radegast is owned by Plzeňský Prazdroj best known by its German name Pilsner Urquell.
We were immediately attracted to the Old-is-New-Again vibe of the former lock factory. We love well-restored, re-purposed buildings with both an old and new tale to tell.
Krížek added a nice unexpected layer of tradition by using the patterns and colours of the Cibulák porcelain also known as Zwiebelmuster or Blue Onion pattern manufactured by Meissen porcelain since the 18th century.
The rounded shape of the onion repeats nicely in the tables, chairs, lamps, vaulted ceiling and even the exposed AC pipes. - Tuija Seipell
Photography is by Alexander Dobrovodský.
New York restaurateurs, Eric Marx and Lisle Richards, known for the Wayfarer at The Quin, have taken on a massive project and turned a Meatpacking District haunt into party central.
The pair opened the elegant Monarch Room earlier this year and just recently, right below it, the Gilded Lily bar. The location of the Monarch and the Gilded Lily is 408 West 15th Street, the former home of the 70s and 80s gay party spot, Crisco Disco. The building has stood empty for three decades while the District around it has been transformed.
To create the interior for Gilded Lily, Marx and Richards worked with New York-based Roman and Williams (of Highline Hotel, Ace, Standard and numerous high-profile restaurants and residences).
They gutted the entire building right down to the support joists and then recreated from these bare bones a special blend of rough industrial brutalism and slightly sinful glamour.
Dancers on the sunken dance floor can now enjoy raw cement surfaces, golden leather seating and a new take on the disco ball: an enormous chandelier of long spikes that is synchronized to the deejay’s music beats.
Apparently the name Gilded Lily comes from the idiom of “gilding the lily” that means covering something with a thin layer of gold and/or unnecessarily enhancing something already beautiful. In Gilded Lily both are true. The already handsome raw space has been embellished by a thin touch of gold. But not completely unnecessarily as it all seems to belong perfectly and echo the past of the District and the building itself. - Tuija Seipell
As far as nightlife goes, in Porto, Portugal, it is all happening downtown. A local company, Baixa (baixa is Portuguese for downtown), has recently added another downtown nightclub to its roster that already includes the Baixa bar.
The new nightclub, Instalação (installation), was designed by José Carlos Cruz Arquitecto, the same team responsible for the design of Baixa bar as well as the Farmacia Lordelo we have featured earlier.
The space for Instalação, opened in March, was in essence a long, narrow corridor with two dividing structural arches that support the building itself.
From this 250 square-meter (2,690 sq.ft.) space the designers created a golden wire tunnel where the main materials are concrete, brass and polished aluminum.
Inspired by various works of Olafur Eliasson,the team created a glowing, floating lighting program that helps expand the space visually and draws the attention to reflections and illumination, away from the narrow framework of the room.
Andy Warhol’s Factory inspired some of the ideas for the smaller VIP room, and Anish Kapoor’s ideas gave suggestions for the beautifully textured concrete ceiling – our favourite part of the entire project.
Apart from the Tom Dixon lighting fixture above the concrete bar counter, all furnishings and fixtures were design by José Carlos Cruz Arquitecto. - Tuija Seipell.
Photos by Fernando Guerra FG+SG.
The 12-year-old Clube Disco night club in São Paulo was reborn this fall. It now carries its past proudly yet offers a completely upgraded experience.
Brazilian architect Guto Requena worked with architect Mauricio Arruda on this project. We like the retro custom-designed furniture that gives a nod to the 1970s Brazilian style and mixes nicely with the black-leather, exposed-pipes underground disco feel. And we like the tunnel that was re-envisioned by Brazilian artist Kleber Matheus.
The lighting of the dance floor consists of 250 linear meters of metallic rails with LED tape that run as a frame along the perimeter of the space. This allows for an endless variety of lighting programs and color mixes to create and accentuate different effects based on the music. The entire system is controlled by the MADRIX software. - Tuija Seipell
On first glance, The Passenger restaurant, recently opened in the trendy Malasaña neighborhood’s Triball area in Madrid, Spain, appears like any retro dining establishment with heavy-handed use of leather, brass and dark wood. Yet there is a distinct undertone of a train, of a fine passenger train of a bygone era.
The bulky and clubby arm chairs, the iron table legs, the big windows all refer to a time when heads of state and industrialists, often travelling with their wives and servants, occupied entire train cars and dined in the most lavishly appointed dining cars rivalling the best-known fine establishments of the time.
But the real fun aspect of the 150-seat The Passenger -- coffee bar by day, rock bar by night -- is the illusion of movement. The three “windows” in the main seating area are actually video screens onto which a constant, synchronized stream of video is programmed so that it flows from window to window, creating a feeling of looking out the window of a moving train.
The stylized train view, evoking an alternate state of being in the middle of busy Madrid, was created by Spanish video artist Franger. The images of both urban scenes and natural landscapes were recorded from actual trains around the world.
The restaurant’s designers at Parolio took their inspiration from the long-and-narrow space and then continued with the train travel concept throughout. Consistent with the classic rock music played at night, the main hall of the restaurant is decorated with images of the greatest stars of classic rock pictured in trains and railway stations.
The Passenger’s owners are young Spanish actors Rodrigo Taramona and Jimmy Castro with entrepreneurs Miguel Peman and Carlos Carrillo. - Tuija Seipell
Brazilian architect Fred Mafra, no novice to night club design, was given the unusual opportunity to redesign his earlier work, the night club Josefine/Roxy.
Since 2007, the club has been a strong player in Savassi, the night life area of Belo Horizonte, the capital of and largest city in the state of Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil.
The 955m² space has two dance floors, three bars, plus four VIP areas that can be combined into one larger VIP space. In addition, it has two lounges and smoking areas with a retractable roof.
With his new design, Mafra went to town with the hexagon and triangle forms.. By using them in the honeycombed ceilings and black-and-white floors, by including padded-vinyl seating and walls, and by lighting the space with creative LED, he's created an angularly sinful madhouse effect that is destined to help guests forget the outside world.
Roxy Clubis open on Wednesdays and Fridays when the DJs play techno and e-music to a straight crowd. Josefine Club is open on Thursdays and Saturdays when the DJs play tribal and pop music to gay/hipster crowd.
Standing out in Abu Dhabi takes more than clever gimmicks. Among the opulence of luxury hotels, lavish restaurants and all other forms of pampering and spectacular entertainment – including Ferrari World and a few breathtaking golf clubs – being merely great is nowhere near enough.
The legendary Cipriani Group is one of the brave enterprises that has recently entered the competition for the attentions of the demanding super-elite clientele.
The night club’s location is one such feature. Allure overlooks the water and extravagant super yachts of the Yacht Club. It is also connected by a bridge to magnificent five-star The Yas Hotel. But the most amazing part of the nightclub is the view. What you see from its balcony is a real Formula One™ race track.
Designed by Orbit Design Studio (Bangkok, London and Singapore), Allure is divided into The Main room adorned with gold leaf and bronze cladding, and The Terrace that overlooks the race track.
Orbit has also designed the Sound Phuket night club we’ve featured, the Bed Supperclub in Bangkok, and many other luxury bars, clubs and restaurants designers throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe. - Tuija Seipell
Photography by Owen Raggett.