October 27, 2020

From "experiment" to techno temple, the evolution of the disco in 50 years

From "experiment" to techno temple, the evolution of the disco in 50 years



Created as centers of counterculture and artistic experimentation in the 60s and converted into temples of "techno" music in the 90s, the evolution of nightclubs and its close relationship with design and fashion center an exhibition that welcomes until the next 5 May the ADAM museum in Brussels.

The exhibition, organized in collaboration with the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, reviews the history of these leisure venues and their influence on contemporary culture through photographs, furniture and other objects from more than thirty night clubs. in Europe and the United States, many of them iconic, such as "Studio 54" in New York or "La Hacienda" in Manchester.

According to Katarina Serulus, one of the curators of "Night Fever- History of Club Culture Design", the exhibition pays homage to the radical thought that created the culture of the clubs and to the way these clubs have influenced social life and the subcultures.

Among the most interesting pieces included in the exhibition, Serulus mentions the creations of the Belgian designer Walter Van Beirendonck, who during the 80s were synonymous with the "New Beat" music in Belgium and turned those who followed that fashion into "co-designers of the nightlife" .

It all started in the sixties: with the spread of pop and rock music the "youth culture" was born and the nightclub became the place of leisure for young people.

In Italy, coinciding with the revolutionary spirit of May '68, young architects created the movement "radical design", which turned the discotheques into places of experimentation where to put into practice their creative ideas.

One of the most representative examples was the "Space Electronic" disco, built in Florence in 1969 by the radical design collective Gruppo 9999, in a former engine repair shop.

The interior decoration included washing machine drums, refrigerators and a gigantic parachute suspended from the ceiling and its program of activities offered music, screenings, plays, an architecture school and an orchard on the dance floor.

In the 70s the nightclubs, installed in old theaters and cinemas, were imposed as an institution of nightlife, assumed a more relevant social role, became the place of those who wanted to be known and in the fashion showcase of the street.

Disco music, originally linked to gay culture, became ubiquitous.

From that time dates the "Yellow Submarine", created in Munich (Germany) in 1971, a building in the shape of a three-story steel capsule, surrounded by a pond with 600,000 liters of salt water where sharks swam, which customers could contemplate through bulletproof glass windows.

The "Studio 54", one of the most famous discotheques of all time, was founded in 1977 in New York, time in which the media cult surrounded the personalities of cinema, music and sports, some of the clients habitual of this place, between which they appeared Andy Warhol or Grace Jones.

In the 80s, the music "house" replaced the phenomenon "disco" and, in communion with the new post-industrial environment of the time, the nightclubs moved to be located in warehouses and industrial warehouses.

Of those times highlights "The Treasury", created in Manchester in 1982 by the owners of the label "Factory Records" and members of the New Order group, a joint that was the epicenter of the "rave" culture in the United Kingdom and " acid house ", famous for the habitual consumption of ecstasy among its customers.

Since the 90s and in the 21st century the "techno" has remained as the last musical movement and has defined the culture of clubs around the world.

Some nightclubs and "techno" parties have become brands and are poles of tourist attraction, while the most reputed DJs have the category of stars.

In recent years other entertainment alternatives, including digital platforms or music festivals, have stolen the spotlight on nightclubs and have forced many of them to close down.

But even today designers and architects are still inspired by the history of the "night club" to develop concepts such as mobile sound systems or ephemeral entertainment venues.

The exhibition will be completed next March with a show on the graphic design of the night in Belgium and a weekend in April of screening of films and documentaries.

Marta Borrás

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