The Herald - The Herald Magazine
DECADES OF DANCE
Six of the world’s most iconic nightclubs
One of the most respected and longest-running clubs in Europe, Glasgow’s Sub Club opened in 1987 in a basement space in Jamaica Street formerly occupied by a club called Lucifer’s. It still operates there, with much of the club design undertaken by Glasgow agencies Graven Images and ISO Design.
Across the decades it’s launched the careers of local DJs such as Orde Meikle and Stuart McMillan – known collectively as Slam – and hosted live sets by acts such as Franz Ferdinand and Basement Jaxx as well as pioneering DJs such as Little Louis Vega, Larry Heard, Juan Atkins and the late Andrew Weatherall. Known locally as “the Subbie”, it’s famous for its atmosphere.
Originally commissioned as a ceramic tile showroom with a disco inside, Italian nightclub Flash Back opened in 1973 and was designed by Turin’s Studio 65 group. From the outside it looked like a pyramid plonked next to a dome and an Ionic column – a playful mash-up of three classical styles – but the magic happened two floors underground in a space age nightclub with an illuminated dancefloor and brick red staircases. The posters were equally garish.
Further additions were made in the 1980s, by which time Italy had a musical genre of its own to promote – Italo disco, heavy on vocoder and heavily indebted to the work of Italian producer Giorgio Moroder.
Founded in Berlin in 2004, the notoriously hedonistic techno club has such a tight security policy that clubbers are required to place stickers over the cameras on their smartphones so they can’t take pictures inside. It’s also infamous for its strict door policy: one exhibition in Night Fever is a facsimile by artist Philip Topolovac of the club’s exterior, fashioned in cork. It’s sarcastic title? I’ve Never Been to Berghain.
One of the most famous clubs ever thanks to a glittering roll call of guests – Andy Warhol and Bianca Jagger were regulars in the late 1970s – New York’s Studio 54 is also synonymous with disco. Based in a building on West 54th Street in Manhattan, it ran there from 1977 until 1986. The design was by architects Ron Doud and Scott Bromley (they even employed a florist) but one thing it never had was a lit-up dancefloor. Blame Saturday Night Fever. “We didn’t have an illuminated dancefloor at Studio 54 because of that movie,” says co-founder Ian Schrager. “Everybody had one so we couldn’t. We wanted something different and more sophisticated.”
Opened in 1982, Manchester’s Haçienda once hosted a live performance by Madonna but it’s most fondly remembered as the epicentre of the city’s Madchester scene of the late 1980s, when indie music and rave culture collided in the form of bands such as The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays.
Operated by music label Factory Records, home to New Order, its modern, industrial feel was the brainchild of designer Ben Kelly, who employed his trademark black and yellow stripes throughout. Kelly, who had also designed the shopfront for Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s Seditionaries shop on London’s King’s Road, was recommended for the job by Factory’s in-house designer, the equally celebrated Peter Saville.
Opened in 1991 in the underground bank vault of an old department store near Potsdamer Platz in the old East Berlin, Tresor specialised in techno and throughout the 1990s the German capital’s growing reputation as a clubbing destination was due in large part to the success of the venue.
Helping in no small measure was the stream of top American DJs who played there – Juan Atkins, Jeff Mills and Robert
Hood to name just three – and the success of the club’s spin-off label, also called Tresor. With concrete walls several feet thick and bars everywhere, the club’s design aesthetic was rugged and austere, a perfect match for the music. In 2007 it was forced to move and set up in a converted power plant, another appropriate setting.
Tresor West opened in Dortmund in 2019 and founder Dmitri Hegemann has plans to launch one in Detroit, the spiritual home of techno.