Meet the Man Bringing Drama and Joy to Brooklyn’s Nightlife Spaces

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Push open the fitting unassuming black door beneath the elevated subway tracks on the Myrtle Avenue/Broadway cease in Brooklyn and also you’ll enter a smoky room stuffed with hazy lights and neon orbs.

Past the glowing bar, an arched doorway results in a checkered dance ground. A regal D.J. sales space hovers immediately above huge audio system and a steep double staircase, the centerpiece of a mirrored balcony that refracts each swirling gentle.

“I reference a lot of churches and spiritual architecture,” mentioned Safwat Riad, who designed the venue, generally known as Paragon. “The club is a bit of a modern-day church.”

By his design work for greater than a dozen native venues, Mr. Riad, 35, has set a precedent for frolicsome, geometric nightlife areas that provide a extra welcoming atmosphere than the typical dive bar or warehouse get together.

He sketches his concepts, warps steel and laser-cuts wooden in a studio in Lengthy Island Metropolis, Queens.

That’s the place he spent the final 12 months or so designing Paragon, a bar, restaurant and dance membership that opened in Mattress-Stuy in April, and has been drawing crowds with D.J. units and dwell performances ever since.

Collaborating with Michael Potvin and Azumi Oe, who designed the lighting, Mr. Riad was accountable for rethinking the house, which has cycled by varied incarnations as bars and dance golf equipment.

Often when he embarks on a brand new mission, he begins with a sketch, which he makes use of to create a digital illustration. He places that into an utility that extrudes 3-D renderings from 2-D pictures. Lastly, he transfers the rendering to an utility that lets him visualize colours, supplies and textures.

John Barclay, who beforehand co-owned the favored and now-defunct techno spot Bossa Nova Civic Membership and now owns Paragon, mentioned that he fell in love with the house a few years in the past, and when he lastly had the prospect to reimagine it, he knew he needed to work with Mr. Riad.

“He can be dramatic with design, which I personally love,” Mr. Barclay mentioned.

“So much of nightlife in New York City right now is based off what has happened in Berlin in the past 20 years,” he added. “Stark, black-and-gray boxes that feel — for lack of a better term — very masculine, and just kind of bleak.”

And it’s true: lots of New York’s largest dance venues are in former warehouses or factories which might be extra prone to resemble airplane hangars than Studio 54.

However Mr. Riad has introduced heat colours, graphic shapes and glossy strains to a who’s who of stylish Brooklyn areas, designing D.J. cubicles, bars and doorways for dozens of golf equipment and bars during the last decade.

“When I got into this, there was nothing other than Output,” he mentioned, referring to the famed techno club in Williamsburg that opened in early 2013. “I felt like the nightlife community was not getting the love it deserves. It wasn’t rich with design; it was just very D.I.Y.”

His work, which performs with dramatic silhouettes, inventive cutouts and the occasional cheeky form — he mentioned that one doorway in Bushwick’s Heaven or Las Vegas was impressed by an ex-girlfriend’s butt — has an unmistakable aesthetic.

“Not everything has to be a square,” he mentioned with amusing. “It’s fun, it’s well-designed and it’s not too serious — because some design ends up being too pretentious.”

Mr. Riad, who was raised in Alexandria, Egypt, moved to Secaucus, N.J., when he was 15. He got here to the US together with his father, who was despatched to the tristate space as a correspondent for Al-Ahram, an Egyptian newspaper.

As an adolescent, Mr. Riad started commuting into the town, the place he discovered himself enamored of native graffiti artists. By 2010, he was discovering his rhythm within the native artwork scene, however after having a run-in with the authorities, he determined to concentrate on wooden and steel working as an alternative. An artist he assisted quickly taught him easy methods to write a contract and let him use his studio.

As he pivoted to design work, he additionally started researching the historical past of techno in Detroit, drawing inspiration from the ways in which native musicians discovered magnificence in damaged machines and decrepit buildings through the late Nineteen Seventies.

He started visiting queer D.I.Y. and techno golf equipment and imagining easy methods to meld the musically impressed motion and colour of artists like Wassily Kandinsky with the brutalist beliefs of architects like Louis I. Kahn.

“Kandinsky always had the vision to paint music,” Mr. Riad mentioned. “And that’s what I wanted to achieve with the Elsewhere D.J. booth,” he mentioned, referring to the favored music venue and nightclub in Bushwick.

“When you’re standing in the middle of the dance floor and you just look at it with all the lights going in and out, it’s literally a painting,” he mentioned.

One of many first nightlife jobs he bought was at Mr. Barclay’s Bossa Nova Civic Membership, the place he was commissioned to design the facade of a D.J. sales space.

He was quickly engaged on tasks for Output, Elsewhere, Heaven or Las Vegas, Short Stories within the East Village, Greenpoint’s Magick City, East Williamsburg’s Rose Gold, Bushwick’s Mood Ring and the annual techno competition Sustain-Release.

He mentioned that his visits to The Spectrum in East Williamsburg through the early 2010s had been significantly formative.

“I walked in and it was so like, slap in the face; the music, the queer people, the drag,” he mentioned, describing the mirror-lined D.I.Y. house. “Queer culture deserves so much more.”

His love for the liberty and pleasure sparked by nightlife led him to prioritize working with areas that welcome members of marginalized communities.

“Mood Ring, for example: they’re clearly queer, they’re clearly P.O.C.,” he mentioned. “They just want to create an environment for people to be comfortable in. How can I say no to that?”

A few of his design inspirations are apparent, just like the halo and satan tails that adorn the D.J. sales space at Heaven or Las Vegas, whereas others are more durable to position, just like the “Beauty and the Beast”-esque roses tucked into both aspect of Paragon’s again bar.

“I did that for all my romantic spirals, because I’ve been through so many break-ups,” he mentioned of the roses. “And then you walk in to the grand arch, which was inspired by Mario Botta.”

However whether or not he’s evoking the Church of San Giovanni Battista or the Motor Metropolis, Mr. Riad is at all times attempting to consider how folks will movement by an area.

At Paragon, for instance, there’s no technique to overlook the D.J. or the dancers as quickly as you stroll within the door.

“When you’re waiting for a drink, you’re able to see the people in the dance floor,” he mentioned. “So it becomes a machine, almost, of circulating movement.”

As he continues to work on nightlife venues, he’s striving to design extra areas that permit folks to expertise the liberation that he’s felt on the dance ground, in distinction to what he described as a extra restrictive upbringing.

“This was prohibited growing up,” he mentioned. “But I’m in love with it because it’s so cool and free.”



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