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Friday01 August 2014

Good vibrations at O2’s Matter nightclub

Outside the club’s main entrance.
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Situated inside Greenwich’s O2 building, Matter nightclub boasts a vibrating dance floor, time-saving touches and 3D projections that clubbers should love

Architect
Pentagram Design
Location
O2, Greenwich, south-east London

I now appreciate the full meaning of the word “nightclub”. They are not places to visit in blinding sunshine with two three-year-olds in tow. But an opportunity to experience the largest “body-kinetic” dance floor of its kind (a floor that vibrates to the beat of the music) was irresistible.

Matter, situated in the O2 building, is the latest club from the successful partnership of Cameron Leslie and Keith Reilly, the brains behind Clerkenwell’s legendary Fabric club.

Visiting Matter during the day meant other problems were encountered. The main entrance probably takes minutes to find at night. However in mid-afternoon, after walking the full circumference of the big tent to then discover the external entrance was closed, necessitating a further walk through the dome’s banal innards and then through several security doors, it took a good hour before we were in the concrete haven devoted to youth culture.

It is unsettling to enter a nightclub without jostling people, the adrenalin rush of loud pumping music and 3D visual installations, but at least I didn’t have to elbow my way to the front of the bar and was even allowed access to the DJ’s hallowed command centre.

Layered over three levels, with a dramatic triple-height void over the main 100sq m dance floor, the 3,400sq m purpose-built industrial looking club designed by Pentagram director William Russell, boasts a number of impressive statistics. Matter has a 2,600 capacity; includes some 67 toilet cubicles, either in the unisex area on the first floor or the women-only area in the mezzanine level between first and second floors; a stage on the ground floor for live bands; a VIP area on the second floor; and a total of three dance floors and four bars. A 25m-long steel bridge with a raked steel mesh links the top level dance floor to the bar at the second floor level and provides a dramatic view through the triple height space to the main body-kinetic dance floor.

A 25m-long steel bridge provides a dramatic view through to the main bodykinetic dance floor

The club features a number of time-saving touches, such as a cloakroom ticket that can be scanned in a queue on the way out so staff can hand you your coat when you reach the counter, a limited range of drinks at the bar and cash payment only upon entry.

Matter’s main “body-kinetic” dance floor.
Credit: Gavin Jackson
Matter’s main “body-kinetic” dance floor.

William Russell was appointed by Leslie and Reilly to work with the club’s existing blockwork frame mainly because of his work with exposed concrete — they had seen Russell’s Bacon House (2001) in east London which features exposed concrete inside.

Russell responded to the brief by breaking up the spaces and designing a wholly raw concrete interior. The walls and ceilings are essentially grey, creating a blank canvas and is apparently, a good colour to show off the unique 3D projections and coloured LED lighting. Sound insulation was incorporated to address new EU regulations about noise in workplace as well as addressing the problem of sound bouncing off the hard concrete surface. The ceiling of the club was sprayed with a 20mm-thick acoustic absorption material (a little like papier-mache) and then finished with plasterboard.

The exceptions to the grey concrete interior, are the ceramic tiled toilet block, the 15m-long bar tops clad in either Corian or zinc, a ticket foyer clad in different grey and green Cembrit panels, and the cloakroom where a red high pressure laminate is used for the walls. Russell also designed all the concrete furniture and lighting.

Russell has only worked on one bar/club before (The Social in London’s Little Portland Street) and this was with his former business partner David Adjaye. In spite of his limited experience in this building type, he says the only lesson he learnt from this project was that he should have made the main staircase, which leads up to the first floor, more substantial given the volume of people using it. The secondary staircase, located in the drum, is not visible enough to provide much-needed relief from the main staircase. If this is the only oversight, then the project is quite an achievement.

Original print headline: Matter nightclub

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