We've got the music. We've got the vibe. Now we need the room. It's not an unimportant element to the clubbing experience. Everyone's been in a situation where the music's been right, but the layout just doesn't allow for head-down/arms-up abandon. (We could name names, of course, but that would just be mean.)
So, we asked you to vote for the clubs that do it right. And whether it be airplanes flying overhead in Ibiza, cozy unadorned rooms in Frankfurt, or vertical blinds that open up to reveal the harsh morning light in Berlin, you told us a couple of key things: we need to travel to Singapore immediately, apparently you only go to London for the music, and John Malkovich? He does no wrong.
Without further ado, RA's Design/Layout list...
10. Lux Fragil, Lisbon
Recipe directions: Take an old warehouse next to a river, add in some non-club elements like a sushi bar or bean bags (and switch them out regularly to keep things fresh), and bring in some world-class DJs. Voila! Instant club. It's never that easy, of course. But Lux Fragil makes it seem so.
With a huge space at their disposal, the owners of the club (one of whom is actor John Malkovich) have built one of the finest in Portugal. It's got three floors, a Funktion One system and more disco balls than you can shake a stick at. With white Hacienda-like columns holding up the techno room, it'll feel like you're right back in Manchester circa 1980. Er…sort of.
- Sam Louis
09. D-Edge, Sao Paulo
It's simple, really. Sao Paulo's D’Edge has a wall that separates the dance floor and bar, but you somehow don’t feel segregated from either: There is always the feeling that the club is one large room. This sort of simplicity is easy to get wrong, but somehow D’Edge’s functional aesthetic works perfectly for the space.
Couple that with some state-of-the-art lighting architecture—neon lights sunken into the floor and a giant Audio Spectrum Analyser that flashes on the wall—and you have one of the world’s most elegantly designed clubs, and one that you'll never get sick of going back to.
- Lawrence Millar
08. Robert-Johnson, Frankfurt
It stands in stark contrast to that other Frankfurt club, but Robert-Johnson serves a different kind of clubber. As you might guess by their unique club listings system (they rarely announce guests in advance, instead sending out podcasts to entice clubbers to attend for each particular night), Robert-Johnson is all about the music.
It certainly isn't about the design. If you can call a simple room that holds 250—if you're lucky—designed. But, if you take a moment to think about it, it fits right in with the Robert-Johnson aesthetic: No promotion, no accout-rement, no nonsense. Minimal never looked so good.
- Sam Louis
07. Weekend, Berlin
Recently circulating the Internet was a video of an enraged office worker, who kicked down partitions and threw—threw!—computers at his fellow pencil-pushers. Clearly he doesn't live in Berlin, where people have a better way to blow off workweek steam. On the 12th floor of the Haus Des Reisens (House of Travel) skyscraper, an immaculate nightclub called Week-End satisfies your hedonistic daydreams with its very being.
Sleek bars replace cubicles in the center of the big, open space, which is tastefully low-lit and surrounded by windows overlooking Alexanderplatz (and a killer sunrise, if you last). With the roof terrace in the summer and the more intimate 15th floor in frequent use as well, Weekend's stylishness seems to have no expiration date. Clubbers may be punching the clock en masse, but they aren't watching it.
- Rachel Shimp
06. Pacha, Ibiza
It's not hard to tell how interested Ricardo Urgell, the founder of Pacha, is in architecture. As you stride up to the Ibizan mega-club, you're met with the sight of a palace with an arched gateway—the sort of building that you'd expect to find in the Middle East, not the White Isle. With its flowing white linen adorning the ceiling of the main room, that vibe continues inside.
Sure, the club is provenance of often-upscale clientele, but that's part of the charm too. At Pacha, everything is designed to take you away to a place that you never dreamed existed. Which, when you think about it, is what exceptional architecture often does.
- Sam Louis
05. Space, Ibiza
Go ahead, scream. That big airplane roaring overhead can't hear you. Space's famed terrace—the one that allows frantic clubbers to serve as the official Ibiza welcoming committee to airplanes flying to the island—isn't the only thing that sets the club's design apart though. With a massive main room that conspicuously lacks a VIP area, Space is the rare White Isle venue that
values democracy in clubbing. As owner Pepe Roselló has stressed in the past, "we think we are all equal under the effects of lights and music." While it seems an obvious thing to say, it's a refreshing change of pace for Ibiza—and one of the things that makes Space one of the reasons to keep going back.
- Sam Louis
04. Zouk, Singapore
Zouk's design inspiration is Moorish Mediterranean architecture, in keeping with its name. The execution is lavish, with details that include hundreds of thousands of mosaic tiles on the walls. The club is spread over three rooms each with its own unique personality and design features such as LED walls or soft rounded sofas. But more than anything, the reason to really admire Zouk
is the practicality of its layout—something that has been refined and perfected over 17 years. European clubbers may be surprised, but this is a place where you never have to wait more than ten minutes for a drink, or five minutes for the toilet. Due to good design, Zouk is clubbing without the hassles, the bother or the grime.
- Jacob Wright
03. Berghain/Panorama Bar, Berlin
Once you've make it past the eternally gruff bouncers and narrowly avoid emptying your wallet at the merch table, the Berghain's massive Funktion One soundsystem greets you with gusto as you scan the industrial architecture. The former power station still maintains its utilitarian charm with stark metal furnishings and lots of dark nooks for casual encounters.
Just upstairs is Panoramabar, where decks suspended from the ceiling provide the helm for residents like Cassy and Tama Sumo. And, in case you forget how long you've been shaking it, the room's vertical blinds snap open occasionally to let the sun provide an answer.
- Steve Mizek
02. Watergate, Berlin
Once upon a time, techno and stylish venues were mutually exclusive realms—if it wasn't dark, industrial and dirty, it just wasn't underground. Thankfully, things have changed, though few venues have managed to combine bleeding-edge beats and sleek design quite like Watergate. Situated on the banks of the Spree, the split level venue is renowned for two strokes of WTF design genius: its lights, and its windows.
The former are a vast bank of ceiling mounted LEDs that constantly morph into all manner of spangling colors, neatly conveying the old 'future discotheque' cliché with unprecedented panache. Downstairs, pretty much the entire waterside wall is made of glass, allowing you to catch your favorite DJs playing through the morning while a grandiose Berlin backdrop unravels elegantly behind them. Clubs don't get much cooler than this.
- Lee Smith
01. Cocoon, Frankfurt
Stepping into Frankfurt's Cocoon is stepping into, well, a cocoon. The design aesthetic is all about soft curves, vaguely biological color schemes and pod seating. Holograms flicker along the membrane wall that sur- rounds this former factory space that houses a lounge and restaurant where you can dine on outlandishly expensive (and delicious) food, in addition to the celebrated club space.
Oh, yeah. There is a place for dancing too. But, of course, we hardly remember much more than the fact that Uncle Sven raises himself over the crowd in a pulpit-like DJ booth. When you've created a complex as awesome (in the true sense of the word) as this, we can't help but forgive him this trespass.
- Sam Louis