Deterritorialisation and darkness

‘The body, sex, and pleasure are often accorded no existence, either mental or social, until after dark, when the prohibi- tions that obtain during the day, during “ normal” activity, are lifted…’ Henri Lefebvre.

It is possible to see the night-time as a space for deterritorialisation, as it allows a degree of freedom for us all to explore the often neglected aspects of our physical and psychological being. Night-staff, CCTV, police presence, urban lighting and other subtler systems of control, however, attempt to re-affirm the day-time territories and boundaries during the night.

Night clubs have had an uneasy relationship with architecture and most current clubs offer generic spaces with minimal design that rely upon  lighting and the centralised position of the DJ as a focus of attention. Crowds face forward rarely looking up or out. There is a collective inner experience that transcends the daytime concerns and physical space of the outside world. Night-clubs, however are primarily controlled and organised aspects of the night-time economy.


In the 70s in Italy there were far more transgressive and expansive visions for what night-time spaces could be and could be used for. Out of the post-war environment and influenced by the Radical Design movement, a group of architects created experimental spaces featuring vegetable gardens, flooded dance floors and evolving wall murals. Innovative architects like Gruppo 9999, Superstudio and UFO designed a number of nightlife spaces that opened across the country.

Brennavan Sritharan writing about a recent ICA exhibition in the British Journal of Photography suggests ‘The co-dependent relationship between architecture and nightlife is at the forefront of the exhibition – the manner in which these spaces transfigure in the moment into something ecstatic, even transcendental’.

One of Rotterdam’s most famous night clubs is Maassilo, a former grain silo and grain elevator. The night-club offers a unique experience as each of the concrete venue spaces still feature the original Silo’s machinery. Night clubbers are free to wander through the cavernous spaces like theatre sets moving from one industrial space to the next.

The building adds a theatricality to the club nights that operate in the venue, but its association with a past space of labour/work, gives the clubbers an air of listlessness as they check their phones and sit quietly oblivious to the post-industrial space around them. There is little transgression in the organised night-space where the revellers take part in the night-time economy.

Close by are several similarly sized operating factories including Meneba, a Millar that has been operating at the site for over a hundred years. The factory operates 24/7 and as the revellers spill out on the street, the machines and the operators continue to run oblivious to each others existence.


*Thanks to Sofia Angelopoulou for introducing me to the Radical Design movement.

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