Rich Light
10 - Chauvet Trackscan 250Rscanners
4 -Chauvet Legend 150R
moving heads
4 - High End Systems
Dataflash strobes


12 - High End Systems
Dataflash strobes
8 - Coemar iSpot 150
moving heads
5 - Martin Professional
MAC 250 moving heads
3 - Martin Professional
Atomic 3000 DMX strobes
2 - Jem Stage Hazers

STAGE (partial)

8 - Elation Vision 575 scanners
8 - Martin Professional
MAC 250 moving heads
6 - High End Systems
Trackspot moving mirrors
6 - High End Systems Technobeam moving mirrors

CONTROL: Color Kinetics iPlayer, ETC MicroVision FX, High End Systems Dataflash controller, Martin Professional Atomic Detonator, Martin Professional Case P1+, Martin Professional Lightjockey

Mansion harnesses corporate sponsorship power.

Quit whining about not being able to afford anything cool for your club, and take a cue from the superclub handbook: Sponsorships, sponsorships, sponsorships. Mansion director Mark Lehmkuhl details the depth of the dough.

“We have a marketing guru,
David Grubman, and he’s brought in enormous sponsorship for us. The amount of sponsorship we’ve taken out of corporate America is on a whole different level now. On any given night, you can see some type of projection for someone sponsoring the evening. The money we get for it allows us to bring in celebrities every week. We really are full-on entertainment, the way Vegas is.

“Young people 18 to 33 have the most disposable income, and they’re in the clubs. We have, like, Burger King sponsoring a nightclub! There is a fine line though: We’re not going to have a giant Burger King banner across the ceiling. Everything has to have an element of class. Some people are giving you $50,000 or $100,000, and they don’t care how ‘cool’ you want to be. We still want to be seen as a boutique nightclub, but combining [that and sponsorship interests] can be done. But it’s the sponsorships that allow us to charge regular admission, even if we paid Paris Hilton, say, $25,000 to be here. They get what they want – to be associated with something hip – and we can offer better entertainment.”

Mansion, Miami


Bringing the party “home”.

By Kerri Mason
Photos by Simon Hare Photography

In an ideal world, peace would be a given, ice cream would be nutritious, and everyone would have a well-moneyed, party-loving friend-of-a-friend with killer digs smack in the heart of the nation’s hottest city. But even under such conditions, you’d need a time machine to get the experience that Miami Beach’s Mansion delivers its patrons and event clients each week: Old world elegance, palatial sprawl, and an atmosphere that only aristocrats of yesteryear could call “homey.”

Nonetheless, the idea behind Opium Group’s latest and greatest acquisition was born from The Living Room, a 5,000-square-foot lounge in downtown Miami that came and went within a year. That space was meant to “embrace the feeling of being in one’s home,” according to Opium Group design director Mark Lehmkuhl. He and his team envisioned Mansion to do the same – albeit in a 40,000-square-foot space, centrally located on noisy cruise-way Washington Avenue.

Cinematic Scope
Drawing inspiration from hotels worldwide, and “giant houses in upstate New York,” Lehmkuhl enlisted the additional vision of local talent Francois Frossard, of Francois Frossard Design. “They came to me and said they wanted to create a mansion, and doing that was the easiest part,” said Frossard, who counts Opium property Privé among his credits. “You can create one room in one style, and then change it up a bit in the next one.”

Frossard’s eventual design took the already grand building – which hadn’t been substantially renovated for years, despite changing hands countless times – and returned it to its French theater roots. The result is splendor on par with the nightclubs of Rimini, Italy that pass for villas, rather than the keep-it-simple-stupid design ethic of most large U.S. venues.

The enchantment begins, fittingly, at the front door. “For the entryway, we wanted to create something where you first walk in, before you start getting involved in the life of the space,” said Frossard. The resulting foyer has a Sunset Boulevard-style staircase winding up the right side; a huge, dangling chandelier; and three Plexiglas archways blooming with LED light (color kinetics icove fixtures installed by Mansion tech Ian Elbrand). These provide access to three separate areas: The hip-hop lounge, awash in Gucci and Prada hues; the library-inspired The Ivy, so named for the pattern that repeats on its bars and tabletops; and the 50-feet-tall main room.

Each is a study in functional splendor, but the latter is where Mansion’s entire team gets to shine; where the concept, design, and extensive lighting, sound, and video elements merge to create a time-traveling techno-manor.

The Grand Tour
Following the mansion metaphor, the main room is the ballroom, or maybe the drawing room, complete with waitresses in French maid outfits. But its most inspired feature is the dancefloor, split in two by a VIP area smack in its middle. “We’re not big club people; we didn’t want a big dancefloor,” explains Lehmkuhl. “We didn’t want the type of venue where you feel like you’re forced to dance.”

Instead, VIPs can amble through the squared-off spread of red and purple chaises and ornate gold tables encased in plastic (custom designed and built by Frossard, like almost all of the club’s furniture), or ascend short stairs and pass through decorative archways to The Ivy. The upper level, accessible by the foyer’s grand staircase, is the supposed boudoir, complete with waitresses clad in lingerie.

Not coincidentally, this is where the techs also do their work. “I commandeered a booth,” confessed Todd Small, Mansion’s lighting designer and installer. “The laser guy is next to me, and the video guy’s in front of us. We take up two VIP tables. They love us.”

Small, a 10-year industry vet who had a “lightjockey@” email address long before the phrase was a glimmer in Martin Professional’s eye, was charged with sorting through the fixtures the new owners inherited from the previous ones, buying a few new pieces, and making them all work together.

His limited purchases included eight Coemar iSpot 150s, “my favorite light, because it’s really really bright, and fast.” These anchor the main room’s system, and surround a 36-inch mirror ball at the center of the articulating truss. His show also includes eight Elation Professional Vision 575 scanners (“the white is pure as opposed to yellowish, and they’re punchy”), and six High End Systems Trackspots (“I’m excited about how good they look in the room”), in addition to other Martin and High End intelligent lights and strobes. Small also spec-ed a full Chauvet system for the hip-hop room, including Legend 150R moving heads and Trackscan 250R scanners: One of their benefits, he says, is that “the gobo wheels and color wheels match.”

In addition to being the main system’s parent, Small is also its guardian, designing and running the light show on all of Mansion’s club nights. “I like to open it up bright and let people see the accents of the room, and then go dark, smoky, and a little more mysterious,” he says. “Then I’ll pop the different accents throughout the night, like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s where all that stuff is.’”

Walking The Grid
But before he could employ any such flourishes, Small had to get the lights in the air. The main room installation itself was “a bear,” he says, and not without its hazards: “It’s a room within a building, so it’s all metal mesh and lathe – you could compare it to paper mache, just a lot stronger. But when you’re in the roof, you have to navigate to different parts by going around that stuff, which is laid out on a grid. So you can walk the grid, as long as you don’t step on the mesh.”

Also negotiating the strange corners of “the grid” was Pro Sound’s crack team of riggers, under the direction of Terry McNeil, the namesake and division head of the company’s new TMc division, dedicated to nightclubs. McNeil – known throughout the beach as “the festival guy,” for his impressive audio design work on the Ultra Beachfest’s multiple stages – and his men did the dirty work of the audio install, executing a plan designed jointly by Phazon’s Phil Smith and Sound Investment’s Dan Agne. The collaboration, while unusual, was mutually beneficial: “Everyone was bidding on it; I was bidding on it separate from Phazon,” said Agne. “But then Phil and I walked through the project and decided to do it together. It worked out to be better for Mansion, Sound Investment, and Phazon.”

As with the lighting, the audio system was an exercise in using what was there, and adding conservatively. Agne reports that the main room’s system consists of eight EAW Avalon DC1s and four “old school” Berthas, left over from the club’s previous incarnations. The hip-hop room benefited most from the new gear, in the form of Funktion-One Resolution 2 full range three-ways, added to pre-existing sub-bass.

Easy Grandeur
The uniformity of the sound system’s output –warm and manageable in every area of the club – was inherent to Lehmkuhl’s overall theme: comfort. “When we walk into a space, we want the sound to be uniform throughout; the same volume everywhere,” he said. “We don’t want it to be too loud: Not background, but a nice warm sound. You can dance anywhere in the sound. It’s not like crobar, or Level before it; we like it to feel like home.”

That goal spills over from the club’s overall concept, to its sound system, to the spatial arrangement of its furniture. And in Miami, believe it or not, that’s a big deal. “The other venues are cramming people into tables. They put three or four tables in a 10-foot area, just to make as much money as possible,” sighs Lehmkuhl. “We have the space, so we give people their own area to sit. You get your own couch, your own table. And the table isn’t going to be 24”x 24”; it’s going to be more like two feet by three feet, a nice big area. It’s like being in your living room, where you have a couch and a big coffee table in front of it.”

So while the world’s still in tumult, Rocky Road’s still the enemy, and most friends-of-friends have beach houses at best, Mansion’s weaving a fully-realized, affluent fantasy for its patrons each weekend, and its bevy of corporate sponsors and event planners each week [see sidebar]. That creation of a self-contained, elegant little world is a feat unmatched in American nightclubs thus far.

–additional reporting by Lizz Gibbons


1235 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach, Florida


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Copyright 2004 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2004 TESTA Communications