With Its Beatles-Themed Lounge in Las Vegas, Cirque du Soleil Starts A Revolution In Club Design
All you need is love. And now, there is more to Love.
The Beatle-maniacal experience started by Cirque du Soleil's Love and its top-selling soundtrack CD has now been spun off into a club, the Revolution Lounge, which adjoins the production (covered in the August 2006 issue of Live Design) within the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The evolution to Revolution was, in a way, a simple one, explains Cirque senior director of creation, Jean-Francois Bouchard. “The Beatles reflect the two concepts: love and revolution,” he says. “If you look at the word ‘revolution’ in reverse, you see the word ‘love’ spelled out. That little fact had a strong influence on us.”
So strong that the Cirque design team paid homage to it, with wall-sized letters that separate the Abbey Road Bar, the entrance point into the club's other spaces, from the casino. The word “Revolution” is spelled out in massive, 10'×50' letters big enough that people can sit on them. Read in reverse, the word “love” emerges from the other letters, and the concept is reinforced by the inscription of Beatles song lyrics about amour on another luminescent wall. Already, the Beatles Revolution Lounge, the first 24/7 club environment Cirque has designed, represents a break from the tried-and-true Hard Rock Café or rock museum treatment. Furthermore, the lounge moves away from anachronistic moving-light fixtures and other club standards to tell the story of the group in a more abstract, Cirque fashion — one that stresses communal interaction and technological interactivity at a level no other nightspot is at — all built around Beatles music, as well as the music that inspired them or has been inspired by them.
Beyond the bar, patrons will find enough Beatles-suggestive entertainment to keep them busy seven days a week. The diamond-shaped Revolution Lounge itself is the imaginative byproduct of the crash of one of Lucy in the Sky's precious gems into the club, and sparkles with an entrance ceiling made of 35,000 pieces of glinting and glittering pieces of custom-cut dichroic glass. The magical mystery tour, where psychedelic-era décor gets a contemporary finish, continues with a “Yellow Submarine” museum wall placed behind the bar; the 75'-long by 12'-high volumetric wall has four portholes cut into it, where projections of The Beatles and other video media play in the light and shadows with a three-dimensional vividness. Replicating the real-life Abbey Road that is adorned with messages from fans on the fence outside Apple Studios, there are seven interactive tables in the steel-paneled, diamond-like lounge, where patrons can draw and scribble onto the glass surfaces with their fingers. The drawings can be erased by hand, but the best are picked up by characters called “Consuls,” two per table, who turn them into graffiti and project them onto the lounge's central column. Even the unisex restrooms get into the act, as they are situated around a centralized circular washbasin placed beneath a scalloped chandelier also constructed from dichroic glass.
Development of the Revolution Lounge, which has capacity for 400 patrons and opened this past December, began in March 2005. Putting it into motion was a little help from some of Bouchard's collaborators, including architect Stephanie Cardinal of Huma Design; lighting designer Nol van Genuchten; Sakchin Bessette, creative director of Moment Factory, which handled the multimedia and video component; and Billy Keays, creative director of Switzerland-based Virtango and Associates, which put together the interactive tables and video elements for the central column graffiti. (Quebec DJ Alain Vinet is the musical director.)
“There was no way to squeeze the body of The Beatles' work into the square footage we had,” van Genuchten says. Cardinal explains that the purely conceptual look of Revolution begins with a '50s ambience black-and-white from when The Beatles were starting out and how viewers first saw them on TV. “You're in a steel black box. The furniture is white, and Nol's lighting has a white tone. As people enter the lounge and bring love into the space, the light evolves in phases into an intense pink. We enter in revolution, then go out in love, all together now,” van Genuchten says with a laugh.
For the LD, the long and winding road to work his magic in the space found its focus in the main lounge. “It has a central column that refracts into the ceiling, and Stephanie had all these panels that look like the crashing of the diamond, so that area I chose to make the focal point of the lighting. The exploded diamond lent itself to small shards and particles and is a perfect environment to shoot my lights from,” van Genuchten says. “Dichroic glass seemed the ideal medium to work with; depending on what angle light hits it from, the perception of color is changed. And it lends itself to the communal concept with the artwork guests create on the tables. It didn't seem logical to do a space where the color changed because I decided to change it. The dichroic space not quite timeless, but more in tune with the time period we were working with — the 60s — but then again, in a contemporary kind of way.”
But a dichroic space is also unconventional, and there was no guarantee it would work as intended. The LD took a box of glass, learned how to cut it, and strung together a maquette “with fishing line and gobs of glue.” His enthusiasm won over his co-designers, but led to what he calls an “Oh-God-what-did-I-do?” moment. “I really have to thank Joshua Alemany of Rosco,” he says of the company's colors and patterns manager who supplied the order. “If he hadn't believed in it, it wouldn't have happened.” Van Genuchten and several Mirage employees spent weeks hanging the many dichroic tiles to the ceiling, each linked with bead chain, “the kind of highly reflective, silver chain attached to the plug of a bathroom sink or bathtub.” The designer came to think of his creation as a she, and readied her for debut.
“I needed a really, really tiny RGB source that I could stick into the ceiling to lay a layer of color there,” van Genuchten says. “And I'm also shooting through the glass from these cracks from a high angle with MR16 sources that are on two-channel track lights. This gives you all this play onto the floor of color and onto people.” Pleased and relieved that “she” worked well once the lighting was ignited, with only modest assistance from the AMX show control setup, the LD recalls with a laugh, “She decides her imagery herself. She has a mind of her own and can only be guarded, not tamed.”
LED products from Illumivision, including the Robbielight — named for Robbie Williams as it was custom-designed for his tour — Light Wave Bar, and Smartcove complement the ceiling and the interactive pieces below. The Robbielights are the ceiling pieces, with the Light Wave Bars highlighting the wall installation and the Smartcove linear LED RGB fixtures tucked behind banquettes. The LED RGB units are controlled by a Pharos lighting playback controller, with the incandescents run off an ETC Unison architectural control system. The lighting and video systems integration was by Julie Mausey and Jason Goldenberg at PRG and Tom Ruzika and Michael Romero from the Irvine, CA-based Ruzika Company. The LD also designed the restroom chandelier, which was fabricated by Lumid.
The show below the ceiling is entirely at the fingertips of club patrons. “Multiple people can draw on the tables at the same time,” explains Keays from Virtango, who is a veteran of museums and science centers that is opening up new technical horizons in nightclubs with this project. “The graffiti accumulates and gets encapsulated. The ‘Consul’ character, created by Cirque, uses his magic powers to transfer it onto the abstractly shaped central diamond graffiti wall.” These “powers” are, of course, Cirque magic. “The custom-made tables use computers, cameras, and projectors. The multitouch-sensing tables, which can seat eight people, have vision systems inside them, which recognize objects on the table, from people's fingers to different-sized glasses. They can also tell what's not a glass and what's not a finger, which was a real big technical challenge and different from a normal touchscreen. That ability to read the surface of the table is passed to another processor that can generate graphics in the correct location. In terms of the graphics, which are in constant motion, there are a variety of motifs, textures, and styles the tables go through in the course of an evening — people have no commands whatsoever to have to learn, which was a real necessity. It had to be easy, friendly, and beautiful, but not obsessive to use. They're a real treat for anyone who comes in there.”
“Cirque sees interactive technology as part of their creative portfolio,” Keays adds. “There are few commercial entities that have the drive to do that.” The exploration of new media continues on the back bar wall, which the Moment Factory handled. “Jean-Francois wanted something both psychedelic and contemporary,” Bessette explains. “There are four portholes, made from SACO LEDs, in our ‘yellow submarine.’ We printed over that wall relief and lit it on a steep angle to create shadows. Another light comes straight on to eliminate all those shadows, and the rhythm between the two lights creates a movement on the wall. We created eight video sequences, ranging from two to 15 minutes each, that are mapped exactly onto the relief of the wall, in different patterns. One, for example, plays off the song “Blackbird,'' while another concerns the British Invasion, in an abstract fashion. Space was very tight, so the images from our four projectors, which are in a [Dataton] Watchout playback system that we programmed, are bounced off mirrors to hit the wall. There are also two two-way mirrors in each porthole, which create a highly dimensional, infinite effect with the images.” The hallway has duplicate portholes for a doubling effect; Moment Factory also created the laser-cut lyrics in the Abbey Road Bar, which seem to blink on and off under the LED lights in that space.
Its combination of a stimulating, eye-catching design, which has the Apple Corp's seal of approval and a groundbreaking application of high tech has put the Revolution Lounge on the top of the charts where Vegas nightclub destinations are concerned. “What you don't see a lot of in Las Vegas are places where guests of all ages mix and mingle. That's the best thing about it,” says Cardinal, readying another appropriate play on words based on a song title. “Cirque and The Beatles are helping people ‘come together.’”
Robert Cashill blogs about entertainment at Between Productions (www.robertcashill.blogspot.com).
BEATLES REVOLUTION LOUNGE EQUIPMENT LIST
AMX Show Control System
ETC Unison Control System
ETC Sensor 48 Dimmer Rack
145 Illumivision Robbielight
36 Illumivision Lightwave Bar
102 Illumivision Smartcove
75' Illumivision Highlight White 3,200K
300' Times Square Lighting 2-Circuit Nordic Track
125 Times Square Lighting 2016 12V Mr 16 Fixture
100' I-Light Technologies Plexi Neon White 4,500°K
50 Juno TC44R Recessed MR16
70' Danalite XF3 Series
60' Tokistar RC-Series Cable Light
140' Day-O-Lite JB Perimeter T8 Fluorescent
12 Pioneer RM T5 Fluorescent Strip 48"
12 Pioneer RM T5 Fluorescent Strip 24"
33 Ultrasigns Custom LED Portholes
1 Ultrasigns Custom LED Revolution Sign Illumination
INTERACTIVE VIDEO EQUIPMENT
11 Rackmount PC System
Intel Pentium D, Dual Core Processor 940, 3.2Ghz, 2MB L2 Cache, 800Mhz FSB Processing: Includes Upgraded Spec and added Video Card
Microsoft Windows XP Professional Edition Operating System
nVidia GeForce 7900 GTX, 256MB, PCI Express Graphics
160GB SATA Internal Hard Disc Drive Storage
2GB DDR2-667Mhz SDRAM Memory
Integrated 10/100/1000 Ethernet Networking
1 Stealth Computer FR-1000-17-KVM Rackmount LCD Monitor w/ KVM Option
1 Stealth Computer SV-1700S-RM Rackmount LCD Monitor
2 APC Smart-UPS 2200VA RM 2U UPS
7 Mitsubishi XD460 Video Projector
7 Panasonic PT-DW5000U Video Projector
4 Panasonic PT-D5600U Video Projector
16 IEEE1394 Video Camera
8 Infrared Lighting System
8 Apple MacMini Compact Computers
2 Middle Atlantic WRK-44-32 Rack, Complete
VIDEO DISPLAY EQUIPMENT - BACK BAR WALL
4 Digital Projection Ivision SX+, Wide Lens Video Projectors
1 Show Sage / Custom Watchout! Production Computer Media Server Controller
5 Show Sage / Custom Watchout! Display Computer Media Server
1 Netgear FS726T 10/100M Network Switch, 8 port, RJ-45
1 TBD KVM Console Switch
1 Middle-Atlantic RM-KB-LCD17 Rackmount LCD Monitor
1 Middle-Atlantic PD-920R-NS 115V Rackmount Power Conditioner
1 APC Smart-UPS 2200VA RM 2U UPS
1 SACO Custom to specification Porthole Video to LED Processor
4 SACO Custom to specification Porthole LED Matrix Display Module
4 SACO Proprietary to Porthole design Porthole Power Cable
4 SACO Proprietary to Porthole design Porthole Signal Cable
1 Custom rackmount panel VGA to RGBHV Video Patch Panel
4 Custom cable RGBHV to VGA Cable Fanout
2 Middle Atlantic WRK-44-32 Rack, Complete