New York's trendy meatpacking district is the home of the newest hotspot for metro nightlife, Aer. I©Rave design studio collaborated with Focus Lighting Inc. to create a dream world through the use of reflection and illusion.

Featuring two levels with a completely different feel, the upper floor caters to the public, encompassing the main bar and more of a traditional club/lounge atmosphere, including a dance floor surrounded by free-form undulating GRG (glass-reinforced gypsum) walls. Smaller lounge areas offshoot from the main bar. This level also features Manhattan's only full-service outdoor heated smoker's lounge. The lower level is an exclusive VIP lounge with couches surrounding mirrored pits that are built into the floor and play video. For added exclusivity, this area also has a private entrance and an elevator bringing members down into a more intimate environment.

According to I©Rave's principal designer, Lionel Ohayon, both upper and lower levels are designed with a theatrical and illusionary feel in mind. “Spaces are configured to encourage uninhibited mixing and flirting among the guests,” he says. “The client wanted the two levels to cater to the public while also providing luxurious state-of-the-art facilities to exclusive paying members. The club is, thus, vertically divided, using the Greek myth of Aer (what mortals breathe) versus Aether (what the Gods breathe).”

With that in mind, I©Rave enlisted the lighting design team at Focus to add to the dreamscape, including principal designer Paul Gregory, project designer Michael Cummings, and project manager Terrence Connolly.

MORTAL AER: THE MAIN LEVEL

Much of the upper level of the club plays on light, shadow, and reflection to provoke the intended otherworldly realm.

“One enters the upper club facing a dark bar that sets off glowing dew drops that hang behind it,” describes Ohayon. “Opposite, rain-like screens conceal a bathroom lounge. Both the bathroom and bar interact with a mirrored, pin-lit box from which the rest of the club's space unfolds. The front lounge is set up for casual drinking and dining. DJ booths are set up within these facing environments providing the owner with the option of running several parties at once.”

While Ohayon was focused on creating a seductive, yet functional, environment, Gregory worked out ideas for the lighting. “For us, the idea was to create beautiful views,” adds Gregory. “The first view of the main bar, with its color-changing butterfly wall, is really striking. The mirrored box moves you through the space and onto the dance floor, which features three-form panels, lit in lavender, pinks, and peach colors. The result of these coordinating views is a wonderful environment that is very continuous as it wraps around the space.”

One of the most fascinating design elements at the main bar is the back wall, covered in resin-encased butterflies. This posed a bit of a lighting challenge. “We did several full-scale mockups with multiple prototypes of the butterfly dewdrop to determine the perfect placement of the fiber optic point and finish of the dewdrop. Even the slightest change in placement created such vastly different effects, that it was critical, not only for effect but for the installation, to get it just right,” adds project designer Michael Cummings.

“We take a great deal of time to really analyze the surfaces and visual images in each space,” says Gregory. “We see each visual image as its own picture, it should have a frame, a focus, a foreground, and a background.”

The final element to complete the upper level is the dance floor. I©Rave worked directly with supplier XS Sound and Lighting on the lighting design here, making creative use of three Martin 250 Kryptons, two Atomic Strobes, and programming using Martin's Light Jockey Software.

“We wanted to add effects fixtures to the dance floor to add a little more animation to the space,” says Shawn Hope, project manager for I©Rave. “During the planning process, we were concerned with the low ceiling height of the dance floor area, and we wanted to make sure the fixtures wouldn't be obtrusive to the guests. We wanted to locate the lights to enhance and not to detract from the club. By doing this, we could gauge the club's mood and the guests' interaction within the space and recognize what would need to be added. So, we waited until the space was done and put in the fixtures once we saw that the space could support them.”

GODLY AETHER: VIPS ONLY

Through a separate entry, VIP guests arrive by elevator to the reception space of the approximately 3,000 sq. ft. lower level. I©Rave designed an environment whereby each seating area has a video carpet, of sorts. Guests sit in one of the five living room spaces atop glass-floored, mirrored pits that hold Eiki LC-XB22 LCD video projectors and appear to continue infinitely under the floor when seen from above. Streaming video, text, and pictures can be projected into the pits, adding a unique feel to the room with each projection. The bottom of each pit is finished with a roller-applied product, Screen Goo. The tops are made from triple-laminated tempered glass in three sections per pit.

“The mirrored pits can portray anything from rippling water, to crackling flames, or a field of flowing wheat. The possibilities are endless,” says Gregory. “It's so seamless and continuous that it looks like it's under the entire floor. This adds to the unworldly quality of the space. During planning, we built the mirror box in our studio and then projected into the box to see which angles would be best, how we could cover the floors most easily, and if the mirrors could be somewhat reflective or if they had to be absolutely perfect.”

A mirrored wall and highly reflective ceiling intensify the space and the video projections. “The ceiling amplifies the verticality of the space and, with the mirrored walls, creates the illusion of infinite space,” says Ohayon. “As a completely warm space, the wooden alcove platform of the bar and DJ table becomes both a place of reprieve from as well as a place to view the reflective nature of the living room spaces. The lounge is also surrounded in uplit, mirrored walls, creating the illusion that the room is infinite.”

“I©Rave had the idea for the black Barrisol [stretched membrane panel system] material on the ceiling, which gives a feel of infinite reflection in the VIP space,” adds Gregory. “As environments go, this was very successful.”

With club lighting incorporating video, there seems to be no end to the convergence of the art forms of lighting and video design in an entertainment environment. Gregory's reputation as a lighting designer is a testament to this: “The use of projection is unusual for us,” he says. “To have light grow out of the floor is something we've done before, but to have come from a video projector was something completely new for us.”

Focus Lighting Design Team

Paul Gregory, principal designer
Michael Cummings, project designer
Terrence Connolly, project manager

I©Rave Design Team

Lionel Ohayon, principal designer
Siobhan Barry, senior designer
Shawn Hope, project manager

AER Gear

150 Lightolier MR16 Track
300' Lightolier Track
20 Lightolier MR16 Recessed Adjustable Accent
5 ETC Source Four® Jr.
1 ETC Unison Dimming and Control System
90' Litelab Litetrax
10 BK Lighting Exterior MR16 Bullet Accent
15 Time Square Surface Mount PAR36 Pinspot
3 Martin FiberSource CMY 150 Fiber Optic Illuminator
1 Martin FiberSource QFX 150 Fiber Optic Illuminator
3 Martin 250 Kryptons
2 Martin Atomic Strobe
1 Martin Light Jockey Software
5 Eiki LC-XB22 LCD Video Projector
2 Eiki LX-X50MX Video Projector
2 Electrograph 42" Plasma Screen
2 Peerless Articulating Plasma Mount Flat Panel Art Swivel
4 Echostar DP 301 Commercial Network Receiver
1 Echostar Commercial Dish Mount
1 Kramer VP-88XL RGBHV Matrix Switcher
1 Draper LCD Lift
2 LCD projector lifts with bomb-bay door
2 Draper Artisan Series E Motorized screen — AV format
1 Goo Systems Custom Goo Video Screen Paint Product
8 Raxxess ECRR-12-20ch Elite Series Equipment Rack
5 Raxxess UTS1 Equipment Shelf
8 Furman PL-8II Equipment Power Conditioner
5 Peerless PJF UNV-S Universal Projector Mount
2 Extron System 7 Video Switcher
3 Liberty PC-1G2-E{B VGA/S-Video/Composite Panel
4 Liberty EZ-SVN-L/R Molded S-Video/RCA Cable
4 Liberty Z-250AV-4' Z-250 Audio/Video Molded Cable
4 Liberty E-VGAMAM-M HD 15 Male to Male Cable
12 Liberty E-VGAM 5BNCF Molded Breakout Cable
2000' Liberty RG6-QUAD Plenum CATV Cable
1500' Liberty RGB6C/22-2P Plenum Video Cable
100' Liberty FSBNC-1RGB RGB5-Mini BNC Connector

Suppliers:

Focus Lighting
XS Lighting and Sound