A landmark Southend venue, which has evolved steadily over the years has suddenly gone into overdrive.
Nearly £2m has been spent converting a 1500-capacity three-storey town centre building into a coruscating nightclub. Thanks to the inspired design work undertaken by the owner Ben Levy and technologist Mike Glover of local company ESL, it oozes innovation and the interior is brought to life entirely with colour-change lighting.
Originally trading only as a basement wine bar, the operation has steadily evolved over a 14-year period (latterly into 920-capacity club) before Ben Levy played his trump card this summer.
Using an RGB colour mix and series of ShowCAD Artist programme presets, Mike Glover’s team has enabled Element not only to change its complexion at the touch of a button but also highlight the four different bars each assigned one of the four Elements ”Earth, Fire, Water and Wind” with complementary colours.
Over the last five years ESL have been tasked with delivering ever ambitious projects for their demanding club clients and sourcing original products, creating custom solutions and animating them with a combination of colour-changing LED’s and moving pixel backdrops.
A vantage point over the first floor balcony offers a spectacular sightline over this glittering club and from the spacious stainless steel DJ box across high glass columns, edge lit with LED tape, to Wind Bar, with its hand-painted motif frontage and cartouched Wind graphic, to the similar Earth Bar facing it across the decorative walkway. Credit for this must also be handed to main contractor, Terry Delph (of Design, Build & Construct).
Laid out ergonomically in the overhanging DJ booth are a pair of Pioneer CDJ 1000’s and DJM 1000 mixer, with the ShowCAD Artist v3, an Edirol MIDI keyboard and touch screen. Also triggered by ShowCad is an ArKaos VJ media server, which maintains the feeling of escapism, with mesmerising graphics, projected over the first flroor stairwell onto a white wall from a 4500 ANSI lumens Sanyo LCD projector.
From the balcony there can be few more alluring views of a dancefloor. Fixed to the pelmets at the side are ten Martin Pro Mania SCX 500 baby scaners while overhead, four powerful Studio Due Shark 250 moving heads whirr from the ceiling and scatter their beams below. Also in the mix are two Martin Pro Wizard Extreme versatile scanners and a Martin Magnum hazer to articulate the beams.
All pretty conventional up to this point. But that changes at the dancefloor itself, which is a custom built, gesture-sensitive floor matrix comprising 6 x 6 liquid panels.
The 12mm thick one-metre square polycarbonate panels have been backed by a further 12mm plastic film underneath by ESL, who have used LED tape to edge-light each panel. The patterns change on contact with the dancers’ feet. “This is fully matrixed through ShowCAD,” says Mike Glover. “It’s the first colour change liquid floor that has been created, and required an enormous amount of prep work.”
If that’s not enough to keep weekend clubbers on the floor until 5am (when the venue closes) then the custo, curvilinear back wall creates an even bigger wow factor. The company Rocket Art were brought in to produce the undulating honeycomb design (accurately converting it to 3D polycarbonate via CNC computer control). ESL then went to work backlighting it with eight Archibar 150’s, Studio Due’s powerful IP 67 wash LED light fixture, the colour-changing, undulating display maintaining the liquid geometric and toning in beautifully with the overall concept. This is another first.
Facing it on the other side of the room is a is black toughened glass mirror reflecting the effect and creating the illusion of depth and dimension. Brilliant.
Providing the sonic muscularity on the dancefloor are two KV2 dance stacks. On each side of the floor an ES1 full range speaker sits atop a pair of groundstacked ES1.8 subs and driven as a five-way system by two KV2 EPAK 2500R’s.
Off-piste Mike Glover has put 12 x RCF C3110 full range speakers to work, providing infill and balancing the sound across a further ten zones via a BSS Soundweb London BLU-800 (configured 4-in/12-out). This contains the gain structure, including limiting EQ and delays, as well as the signal routing. A C3110 is also assigned to DJ monitoring.
Elsewhere the environment is a showcase for Polair’s custom stainless steel work and ESL’s LED flexi-tape. All seven 10mm reinforced glass pillars on the balcony, measuring 5 metres from floor to ceiling, can RGB colour-change, thanks to the presence of more discreet LED tape.
But Mike Glover has used a much bigger palette of LED FX than tape alone. While the bars, for example, may thus be highlighted at the top, bottom, front (and the drink trough), white neon and Tryka Module 3â€™s provide further uplighting, while along the balcony these are also used as in-ground effects to illuminate the balustrading (recessed into the floor via ESL housings).
The one stand-out bar is the ground-floor Water Bar, complete with a fish tank holding three tons of water and some polycarbonate drink shelves and concealing LED tape which washes the bottles. Such a great opportunity is this for venues to pimp their drinks (or maybe mount a promotion) that the obvious commercial benefits have persuaded ESL to market these colour-changing shelves as a range of bar furniture.
Elsewhere there are two VIP areas/bookable snugs (both with an LED lit table), while the walkway across the first floor balcony also takes clubbers under two LED-backlit Barrisol stretch ceilings, the more strident of the two using Studio Due Archibar 150 high-power 6W LED RGB battens and two Martin Atomics so that the whole panel also strobes.
Above this, the luxurious and expansive Ladies boudoir has its own dedicated mezzanine, complete with seductive white leather curvy banquette, solid black granite tops and 50” plasma screen (all the fixed seating was supplied by Thames Upholstery). This stainless steel heaven is a destination in its own right.
For Mike Glover’s project team (who carried out the original ground floor conversion eight years ago, this represents one of his major triumphs.
He and Ben Levy have created a Tardis effect not only by swelling the surprisingly large interior space with FX but also concealing the place’s identity by day with the anonymous black fascia and signage, which is brought to life after dark via rolls of LED tape and six Studio Due ArchiLed floods.
The final piece in the jigsaw will be the conversion of the original basement bar into Element Underground.
This, itself, has been extended, with some 11 tons of floor slate used in the reconstruction of this low-ceilinged space. The subterranean walk down passes an infinity mirror and brick faces and it is now a far cry since the days when hops used to hang from the ceiling and the place was redolent of cast-conditioned ale. Mike Glover has astutely reused many of the fixtures he installed during earlier upgrades, such as Tryka LinkLED’s, Module 3 downlighting and 1200 mm strips which illuminate the brick slips.
These are complemented by ten Martin SCX 500 scanners and 36 x Pulsar Chroma MR16’s which uplight the brick vaulted end of the rectangular room and provide a seductive wash. The highlight is a stainless steel wall matrix with chasing white LED’s which also serve as blinders. For the sound reinforcement, the venue will continue to use its four stacks of KV2 (each comprising two ES1.8’s and an ES1.0, powered by EPAK amplifiers).
All three bars use Tryka LinkLEDs and RGB strips, while ESL have edge-lit around the DJ booth, which is also equipped with Pioneer playback equipment.
Mike Glover is delighted with the result. “Around here competition is stiff and every operator has to be on his game to attract an audience and there is a growing appreciation that the AV element has become an increasingly important part of the mix. This proves the point.”
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