An Insider's Guide to matter

Architect William Russell and others talk about the new club at the O2.

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William Russell and Angus Hyland of Pentagram
Last month saw the hotly-anticipated launch of matter [sic], the new superclub at the O2 Centre from the founders of Fabric. DazedDigital.com was there, and we can now take you deeper into the unique infrastructure of the futuristic venue than anyone else. Below, we've got a video introduction to matter's state-of-the-art sound and light technology, but before that, read my interview with William Russell, one of the architects of the club. A partner at Pentagram Design in London, his recent clients have included Alexander McQueen, Cass Art, COS, Krug Champagne, the London Borough of Camden, Margaret Howell and the Tate Gallery.

Dazed Digital: Have you ever worked on a nightclub before?

William Russell: I designed a bar called The Social on Little Portland Street, that’s probably the closest I've come.

DD: Were you deliberate trying to evoke brutalist architecture with your design?
WR: Yes. It’s a concrete playground. It is brutal, but it’s hard-wearing. It’s almost like a void space, a blank canvas, which people can occupy and party inside, rather than having anything imposed on them. And it had to be incredibly hard-wearing, with a substantial earthy solidity, so concrete was the only way. Obviously in the VIP room it’s softened, but the main room is hardcore.

DD: What about traditional rave venues like warehouses and railway arches – were they a reference point?
WR: Not really.

DD: Name any big club, and people will give you a list of things they hate about it. Did you do a survey of the common problems?
WR: Well, I have been to a few clubs myself, and also I learned masses from the experience of the team at Fabric. They know how successful their club is but also where its shortfalls are. I hope that, despite its massive size, the circulation and sightlines in matter are very clear, so finding your way around should not be a problem. We’ve put in a huge number of toilet cubicles. Also, at Fabric, the queues are extraordinary, and the bottleneck is not the ticketing but the cloakroom. So we’ve put in a much more sophisticated cloakroom system where people won’t have to wait.

DD: What about security? Did you take any measures to make it more difficult for people to take drugs, for instance?
WR: Those long sightlines are very good for the security team, in case there’s a fight or something. We do think a lot about security, but it has to be non-invasive. As an architect you’re always trying, in a very gentle manner, to direct people to do certain things in certain ways.

DD: But you must realise that a lot of people will end up taking drugs whatever you do.
WR: Yes, we’d be naïve to ignore that. And I think in this club there is a degree of theatricality which will impress you, even if you’re just drinking alcohol. It’s about heightening perception. The music and the lights are the principle weapons, and then there’s the space itself. That will all help to move you up to a different plane, whether it’s by chemical means or otherwise.

DD: What are you working on now?
WR: I’m doing some work at the Natural History Museum: the David Attenborough Studios in the new extension. It’s a lecture space. I’m also doing some more work for Alexander McQueen, and some private houses. A nice mixture.

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