Stepping inside the spacious structure, you find yourself surrounded by a larger-than-life visual display that turns a nightclub into a vivid world of bright colors and moving images. Welcome to O1NE, Beirut’s latest nightlife hotspot, which boasts the world's largest privately owned graffiti mural, a state-of-the-art 360 degree projection system and the immersive visual experience it brings as some of its main attractions.

(Photo via Minus5 Architects and Studio Mr. White)

“Image is as important as sound in the nightlife experience,” says Chafic El Khazen, Chief Executive Office of Sky Management, the team behind well-known Beirut hotspot Sky Bar and, more recently, O1NE. Feeling that the clubbing experience had been neglecting recent advancements in visual technology in favor of greater focus on sound, El Khazen decided to go all the way with the visual offerings of his next project: O1NE, which opened its doors to the public in December. Envisioning a sweeping 360 degree projection setup, El Khazen enlisted local design studio Minus5 Architects, and 3D animation studio Studio Mr. White, to bring this visual spectacular to life.

“We developed different visual scenarios for the space, maximizing its potential to immerse the patrons into all sorts of clubbing moods,” say Daniel George of Minus5 Architects and Hani Abyad of Studio Mr. White, who are no strangers to projection mapping, having previously collaborated together on various assignments of this nature. Though they’ve projected on everything from the stone walls of an ancient citadel in Byblos to a specially-built transformable moving stage for a BMW event in Zaituna Bay, this project proved to be quite the feat: “The O1NE project was a big challenge in terms of scale and content resolution; each scene was created with a resolution three times bigger than what Hollywood adopts for its blockbuster movies.”

(Photo via Minus5 Architects and Studio Mr. White)

For the first season of the club, George and Abyad were tasked with creating the opening visuals that would set the mood and introduce club-goers to the world of O1NE. After extensive brainstorming and research, the pair had enough concepts between them to develop into full-scale immersive visuals. Using a variety of 2D and 3D software, they turned their ideas into images, all while abiding by the very precise specifications that the surface they will be projecting onto demands (size, distance, curvature, etc.)

“Every project we do carries with it the inspiration of the location,” say George and Abyad. For an upscale setting such as O1NE, the visuals prepared are “very classy, magical and detail oriented”, drawing inspiration from eclectic subject matter such as cities, iconic locations, outer space, film, literature, and more. “The opening sceneries entertain the socializing mood of the patrons at the beginning of the party when everyone is pretty much sober, so you’re trying to impress an aware crowd; it's trickier”.

(Photo via Facebook)

If the scale of the project alone wasn’t difficult enough, the team was also working in a virtual context for the most part, as the architectural execution of O1NE was running on a tight schedule, meaning that full-scale trials could not be done until later. They explain: “We had to rely on testing everything virtually trying to anticipate and narrow down any potential gap between the virtual 3D model of the space and the actual built one,” adding “The technical team calibrating the projectors on site had done a perfect job and lucky for everyone, the few days of testing prior to opening day proved we had done everything correctly.”

Having been open for just over a month now, the innovative venue has been extremely well-received by the Beirut party populous and continues to wow a new batch of patrons every night. If immersive visual projections are the wave of the future for the clubbing experience, Beirut is definitely riding it. There may just be more to clubbing than drinking and dancing, as George and Abyad put it: “It's not a club anymore; it's a world you're walking into where anything can change at any moment”.

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