Manhattan’s New Status Quo



Upscale club/lounge hybrid enlists the best in the business to create a tropical retreat, smack in the heart of the city.

By Ryan Malkin
Photos by Oscar Gama

What do an attorney and a carpenter know about nightclubs? Not much. But in the case of Gary Malhotra (law) and Carlo Seneca (wood), they’re quick learners. After hitting clubs for years, the two New Yorkers wanted a place of their own; a venue that would be “the spot,” not just another club. The result of their determination is Quo, an 80’ x 100’ lot in Manhattan’s Chelsea district transformed into an “urban tropical” paradise.

If Quo was going to be the best, Malhotra and Seneca knew they had to hire the best to create her. The team they assembled is very who’s-who: Interior designer Stephane Dupoux, two-time Club World Award winner for New York’s Cielo and Miami’s Pearl; Joseph and Anthony Lodi of Advanced Audio Technology, who create their own speakers [see sidebar] and garnered a Club World Award nomination for their audio design at New York’s Deep; and Kale LaCroux of Robert Singer and Associates, the firm behind the lighting of legendary nightclubs Tunnel and Studio 54.

Malhotra says that the trio was critical to Quo’s development, for more than just its members’ obvious skills: It was also clever marketing. “It’s important that your brand comes out right from day one,” he says. “When you hire the right people, people who understand their particular task, your name spreads and trickles down.”

With their combo of smarts and clout, Dupoux, the Lodi’s, and LaCroux gave Quo all it needed to become the city’s most energized elite hangout.

“Urban Tropicalism”

Quo opened in late April 2004, but the planning started months before, when Malhotra and Seneca first met with Dupoux. The two saw a void in the New York market for a club/lounge hybrid, and envisioned a venue with two distinct areas: a main club room for vocal house, and a back lounge for hip-hop. In their view, all New York clubs were cut from the same dull mold: “Dark with furniture, and then you hire some promoters.” They wanted Quo to be more like a Miami or Las Vegas space; a club with a concept. Those were the basics. Now it was up to the master.

In-demand designer Dupoux calls himself “a translator of other people’s visions.” It was him who hatched the “urban tropicalism” concept that became Quo’s theme. The end result is a “very curvy, voluptuous space with great circulation,” he says. “People can see each other throughout. It’s like a sexy style of public assembly.”
The main room features a circular stage in the center of the room for fire-blowers, musicians, or dancers. Stones line the entire length of the long wall, and LED lighting creates the effect of water trickling down it. Opposite the entrance is the bar, where geometric 70’s-style wood “chandeliers” hang overhead.

Two of Quo’s four VIP rooms, including the main one, are in the loungier back room; the other two are up front and in open view, with a more liberal admission policy. The main VIP is tented, with banquette seating for a more intimate feel. But it still offers easy access to the entire club, “to create energy,” says Dupoux.
Energy is the goal throughout Dupoux’s design, and results from “accumulation of detail,” he says. “Different heights create energy; the use of different materials creates energy.” That’s why he staggered the height of the chandeliers, and even some walls; and used fur and shiny vinyl on furniture. “The unbalance [of those materials] is almost shocking, and also creates energy,” he says.

To offset all that oomph, Dupoux made Quo curvy, which he says fosters a relaxed vibe: “If you see something round and something square, you feel more comfortable with the round.” That’s why there’s not a sharp edge to be found throughout the club.

Asymmetrical Sound
Once the design was complete, the sound and lighting were the next obstacles to tackle. “Quo started as a very simple install that became quite complex with the certain requirements of the space,” said sound designer Joseph Lodi, half of Advanced’s twin brother team (also in the process of revamping local nightclub Spirit). The difficulty level increased because of Dupoux’s relaxing curves: Quo is not symmetrical. “It’s the most round, non-parallel space I’ve worked in,” said Joe. “If you hang one speaker on one side, you can’t do the same thing on the other side. This happens to be very good acoustically, but [makes it] very difficult to place speaker cabinets.”

So the Lodi’s sonically designated the entire main room, from the entrance to the bar at the opposite end, as the dancefloor. To keep sound consistent across it, they custom built all of the speakers, then “pulled them back at about 35 degrees to the main floor, and angled the center sections housing the midranges and tweeters at about 18 degrees off axis,” Joe explains. These sections are shaped like V’s — angled both outward and downward for better dispersion and coverage — and they use a quadruple horn in an array to combat phasing and cancellation problems. “The result is a true 120 degree dispersion pattern,” says Joe.

Because of the room’s unique design, subwoofer placement became an issue as well. The Lodi’s solved this one by building the subs into a perfectly round platform at the center of the dancefloor, effectively eliminating cancellation. “When you face an 18-to-21-inch speaker producing a bass wave, it has to travel 30 to 40 feet to fully do what it has to,” says Joe. “When you walk that distance in most clubs, you’re already at another woofer, and that’s when you get cancellation.” In Quo, the subwoofers sit in the middle and face outwards. Since they were built specifically for the club, the six enclosures fit like puzzle pieces, one into another.

The Lodi’s 40,000-watt system is powerful enough to attract the world’s top DJs, but their well-equipped DJ booth seals the deal. It includes 18-inch subwoofers built into the lower half of the console, and two line array monitors. According to Joe, the arrays offer wide dispersion horizontally, but narrow the pattern vertically, so that “even if the DJ goes to the left or right of the console’s center, he still gets a full frequency.”

But the most unique aspect of Quo’s sound design is that it’s future-proof. Because the Lodi’s were there from the start, they were able to run wiring inside the concrete floors before they were poured. Plus, they mounted all floor and ceiling channels before any finished walls were hung. So they won’t be breaking down any walls to run wires for the eventual roof deck (planned for next summer).

Constant Color
Before heading over to Aspen, Colo.-based Robert Singer & Associates, lighting designer Kale LaCroux worked on projects everywhere from Disneyland and the Indian Motorcycle restaurant chain to high-end residential homes. Quo is his first nightclub.
“The basis of Quo’s lighting design is change, instead of a static feel,” LaCroux explained. “You don’t want someone to come in night after night and see the same thing. You want to offer something new to look at each time, and even over the course of a single night.” To accomplish this, he used the 16.7 million-color capacity of Color Kinetics LED lighting.

The main lighting sources are housed inside Dupoux’s custom-designed chandelier pieces. These are constructed of a series of six-inch milky white Plexiglas tubes, built into circular or square wooden rings. By placing runs of multiple one-inch thick color kinetics iColor Coves in the tubes, “we created a six-inch diameter of continuous light source for a bigger effect,” said Lacroux.

He applied the same concept behind the main bar, but in the form of Cove-embedded wood “arcs” mounted flush to the wall. “That’s actually a compilation of 25 six-foot tubes, each with five feet of Coves in it,” says LaCroux. “The arcs follow the curve of the wall, and the tubes run vertically within the arcs.”

LaCroux programmed the Coves to display static colors during early evening and late night hours. He also created a chasing rainbow effect that cycles through all of the colors slowly over an hour, in addition to the requisite Saturday Night Fever flashiness on the dancefloor when the time is right. The rest of the system consists of a smattering of intelligent lights (on the dancefloor), projectors, and linear rope lighting under banquettes and stairs.

According to Lacroux, the Quo project was unique because of its preset vision. “I’ve never seen anything work as fluidly as this, as far as lighting tying into a space and not being an afterthought,” he said. “It’s really the ultimate fusion.”

Nice, But Don’t Try To Visit…
Malhotra and Seneca aren’t casting their club’s perfectly rendered pearls unto just anyone. Their philosophy is to keep Quo’s door very tight for as long as they can. “You can’t let the door go quickly,” said Malhotra. “The main way to keep a club good is to keep the door as long as possible, and still not be offensive.”

In the pair’s thinking, if entrance got too easy, Quo would be in danger of getting “old.” But they hope that people who were initially rejected will still be curious after the A-list is over it, and try again. If the Quo name is established as cool, they say, people will want to see what was so special about it.” That way, according to their calculations, the club can still be hot and profitable for another couple of years. But the two know that getting to the point of sustained success isn’t easy: “It’s more of a marathon than a sprint,” says Seneca.

511 West 28th Street
New York, NY

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Copyright 2004 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2004 TESTA Communications