X Marks the Spot
Ian Phillips -- Interior Design, 5/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
When it comes to nightclubs, the most fashionable are often the most fleeting. In Germany, that's certainly the case. "They open in extraordinary places for a limited period of time," explains Katja Killinger, the German events and sponsorships manager for Microsoft Game Studios and Xbox.
Picking up on that trend, Microsoft chose to promote the Xbox video-game console by opening four temporary lounges: in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, and Düsseldorf. All were open for just three months. And all incorporated a bar and a dance floor as well as six consoles equipped with Microsoft's hottest games, whether combat-style Halo or speed-demon Project Gotham Racing 2, not yet released for retail at the time.
The four lounges shared one more similarity. All were located in offbeat venues chosen at the last minute. "Before that, absolutely no information was available about the premises," says Feldmann + Schultchen Design's André Feldmann. To overcome this problem, he and fellow principal Arne Schultchen prioritized flexibility and functionality in the design of three angular elements that fitted together in countless combinations. The trio comprised a banquette, a bench, and a sloping table on which Xbox consoles and monitors were mounted with a theft-prevention device.
Banquette and bench cushions, covered in black faux leather, sat on bases of laminated veneer, assembled to leave a 1/2-inch gap along each edge. Because Feldmann + Schultchen had painted the bases' interiors a matte green and equipped them with energy-saving fluorescent bulbs wrapped in a filter of the same color, light burst from the cracks to cast an otherworldly LED-type glow on the painted wooden floor tiles. "The installation looked mystical, powerful, and futuristic, like it was about to explode," Schultchen says. "On the other hand, it was totally relaxing and comfortable."
The green-and-black palette also echoed the aesthetic of the Xbox itself. Green paint edged each floor tile, and circular black logo plates appeared on the sides of furniture modules—often arranged in an X. "For us," says Schultchen, "the perfect space would have been a completely black room." Microsoft didn't consider that an option. Still, the locations did have a hipster vibe.
In Berlin, Feldmann + Schultchen reinvented one floor of a 1904 department store in the trendy Mitte district. In Munich, the architects ventured to the back of a courtyard to imbue a former printing plant "with the charm of a place only known by real nightlife insiders," says Killinger. The huge chimney of an old smokehouse, overlooking the harbor in Hamburg, was illuminated in Xbox green. In Düsseldorf's new Medienhafen development, an office building got the Xbox treatment.
Ranging from 1,600 to 5,400 square feet, the different venues held 60 to 400 people. "Sometimes the lounges got so crowded that you couldn't actually see the furniture," says Feldmann. Their success, adds Killinger, could well lead to the concept being extended internationally. "Our colleagues in other European countries are very excited by the idea," she says. Who knows? With the next console upgrade, the Microsoft lounge might even make its way home to Seattle.