The Basement Dance Club conceptual design

"A nightclub is an overcrowded space
where everything has to function
perfectly together"

-Rabih Geha

1,800 square feet of space

Early Spring, 2016 --The possibility of getting a space on Cleveland's east river bank opened up and I got a call from a client to meet and go to check it out. The location had been a live-music bar and the idea was to turn it into a dance club. The space was only 1,800 square feet -plus restrooms, a narrow entrance lobby, and a back outdoor patio deck facing the river, it was rundown but it had potential. The idea was to put a bar and a DJ booth with the added attraction of another small outdoor deck-bar and seating with a view of the river. I needed a temporary name for the project, so I called it "The Basement" (since it looked like one).

The question was: "How do you create the desired club, in the shortest amount of time, with the least amount of capital?" The restroom needed fixing and a few structural changes to add more urinals. No short cuts here because these areas are regulated by city building and safety codes. This left the main room as the focus. So what do you do to save money and work fast? Simple answer: you strip away everything. So the old bar had to go, the bad and outdated decor and an existing stage platform too. What remained was a box with a concrete floor, a fairly high ceiling with a center beam supported by metal posts, and four walls. The next step was to figure out where the bar was going to be placed. So I listened to the client's ideas and specifications and then proceeded to make simple illustrations. Plan-A: a centrally positioned rectangular bar.


A rectangular bar would be centered as shown and the existing metals posts would be integrated into it.


This design allowed patron to approach the bar from all sides. This was the "center of action."


Aided by reference photographs and measuring notes, I use SketchUp to construct the space in 3D. Then I export still images from the model.


I showed the bar from various angles so the client can have a good idea of how the bar fits inside the space. To give an idea of scale, I place a cutout-figure into the rendering.


After studying the images and much discussion, it was concluded the bar's inner space would be too confining for the bartenders, so the plan-A was dropped.

Plan-B: Build a long bar along the side wall, but to give it a slight curve (because the client liked curves). A this point I'm only illustrating, just listening and letting the clients exhaust all their ideas. Since we are only "exploring" possibilities, I put the least amount of time into these renderings. However, I make them to exact scale to have an accurate estimation of the space.


I created a long bar with a slight curve placed in front of the north-side wall. The main entrance and restroom access were on the east-wall, and doors to the outdoor patio-deck on the west-wall.


I left enough space between the bar and the wall for bartenders to do their business.


After seeing the previous rendering, I was asked to make a back storage and bottle display area repeating the same curve as the bar. So I created plan-C.


I created the requested addition and produced a few images from different points of view. The advantage of working from a 3D model is that you easily do so.

As you begin to provide visuals, new ideas are generated. The following questing emerged: "Where is the disc jockey going to be?" Suggestion: "How about behind the bar -so we have a central focus?" And, "How about putting up a platform so dancers can go on-top? Let's have a look!" So I draw Plan-D, by adding a platform with a DJ booth at the center and steps to get up to the platform. I also added bottles to illustrate the liquor display options.


The renderings are simple but they convey all the information needed. I also added silhouettes of the DJ and dancers, a bartender and a patron to flesh out the concept.


Overhead views gives a good idea of depth and the allotted space for people to move. Keep in mind that at this stage we are only concerned with the floor plan, not decor.

So far, the clients liked some of the elements in Plan-D. But they have a new concern: the bar needed more "real-estate". In other words, it needed to be larger. And, they wanted more "curve". Also, they liked the ideas of having the bar up-close and personal, like in Plan A -the first thing people see when they enter. I'm was thinking, in a place this small (for a dance club), it will take you a fraction of a second to see everything, but I kept my mind open to any ideas until I went through a period of reflection. Once the clients exhausted all their ideas, it was up to me to see what I came up with. A week later we met and I presented my own design: Plan-E.


I extended the bar forward into a horse shoe shape that fitted nicely between to of the metal posts and also supplied more serving area. This also made the bar a prominent focal point from the entrance with nice organic curves pulling the eye toward the ends.


The bar's curve shape was recreated on the DJ's platform resulting in a more elegant design as well as making it the focal point during dance shows.

Once the "final" floor plan for the bar was established, I worked on the decor. To make the place look larger, everything is painted black, like a black-box theatre. Then graphics and colors were painted on the background wall and the floor. Using an "op" art pattern gave the optical illusion of movement and a 3D surface to the flat back-wall and the inner bar area. The floor design consisted of geometric circular patterns and a grading of color bands. This made the space appear radiant, pulsating, dynamic and exciting to the senses -especially when club lights, visual effects and sound were added. Lastly, large-scale printed graphics of musicians would be added to the other walls.


Except for the printed graphics of the musicians, everything else is hand painted. Since the floor is concrete, the design would be painted with durable epoxy colors topped with four-coats of epoxy clear finish for a diamond-hard finish.


Once the bar and DJ platform are built, the entire place could be finished in a matter of weeks. What's more, paint is the least expensive option of any decor. But a paint job that's done like a work of art, looks like a million dollars!


The final rendering gives a good idea of what the finished club would look like: a sensory rush! Add attractive patio seating and bar-high tables and stools along the walls, and the space a has tremendous potential as a "happening", one-of-a-kind dance club.

Like many conceptual designs, most don't see the light of day (or parts of it get used on other concepts). This is why you keep them simple so time is not wasted in details. If a project moves forward, then I do highly detailed renderings. For this particular case, the clients could not reach a lease agreement with the building's owner (this was my understanding) so the project was dropped for the time being. I say "for the time being" because a new vision for the same space was presented to me the following month: The Roc upside-down Bar Club. So make sure you check out this page where I take things all the way up to the top level. Thinking "out of the box" and providing original designs that do not replicate what's already available in the competition, is what keeps my phone ringing. Also, I think like a businessman -every penny counts.

Thank you art lovers for visiting Muralmaster. I leave you with a parting gift, a quote from American writer Dale Carnegie: "Instead of worrying about what people say of you, why not spend time trying to accomplish something they will admire?"

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