anthology / on-the-architect / evocation / typology-nightclub /

Typology: Nightclub


Cardillo’s Off Club project was case study part of the ‘Typology: Nightclub’ essay in The Architectural Review issue on Darkness topic

The Architectural Review 1470


Is it possible to consider the history of the nightclub without experiencing at least a twinge of sadness? Transitory by nature, the entertainments they offer are also brief – usually a couple of hours per week, although certain Berlin establishments can run all weekend, chemicals permitting. And it can be said with some certainty that the type as a whole is currently in a state of decline. Turning to photographs of what might be called clubbing’s golden age, which took place in cosmopolitan Western cities, especially New York, between the 1970s and early 1990s, is to view a sea of ecstatic, beautiful young people, many of whom were shortly to die. They shall not grow old, but let’s not romanticise the awful fates awaiting them.

There is also a sort of typological melancholy to the club, since the architectural qualities of the space are usually ephemeral, and should in any case recede into the background. The fun here is not to be had in contemplating sophisticated design. That would suggest a failure of other, more crucial factors: music and bodies in synchronised motion; a crowd which, in the absence of specular fixation on a distant point, turns in on itself to acquire an entirely different quality from the audience of a concert. This is not to say that there haven’t been interesting examples of the type, but on the whole the best clubs are the least architecturally obtrusive. […]

Off Club

The subterranean location of many nightlife establishments can give these spaces a gloomy and at times seedy air. This is not the case with Antonino Cardillo’s Off Club in Rome. Here, monolithic geometric volumes in gleaming black enamel are set against others in warm grey. In Cardillo’s words, “it reunites the cinema of Kubrick and De Palma, Grand Theft Auto, Miami Art Deco, Escher’s perspectives, Byzantine iconostases, and Japanese folding screens.” These hieratic forms create an atmosphere of slightly menacing mystery—one could expect a Mithraic rite to begin at any moment. This is compounded by the impasto plasterwork on the ceiling and upper walls, Cardillo’s trademark technique, which in this instance imparts a chthonic atmosphere to the space. Counteracting any gloom, however, is the gold paint covering this plaster, which reinforces the temple-like impression—or perhaps, the feeling that we could be in Nero’s subterranean Domus Aurea.

Off Club

Antonino Cardillo, Off Club, Rome, 2018. Photography: Antonino Cardillo