North Of The Border


The Biggest Little City's most recent downtown entertainment space, which takes its name from its 210 North Sierra Street address, has the modern influences of Las Vegas with touches of Hollywood eras gone by, and it's easy to see why 210 North has Reno talking. Everything about this expansive dance club/lounge exudes opulence and glamour, from its posh furnishings to the 5,000-piece blown glass chandelier in its Divinity lounge, to the dramatic color-changing escalator that funnels up to its 13,000sq-ft. of rooms. Among these areas are two full-service bars, two VIP lounges with beds (for sitting only!), and a dance floor.

Former Eldorado executives Jill Gianoli and Rob Stone spent years envisioning a nightspot in downtown Reno for professionals seeking the perfect place to enjoy a special evening out that would satisfy the richest tastes without excluding the true club crowd. To turn their ambitious dream into reality, the partners called on club designer Charles Doell of Mr. Important Design in San Francisco, recently named one of eight “Legacy” designers by the San Francisco Design Center.

The force behind such trendy San Francisco gathering spots as Backflip and Blush, Doell describes his vision for 210 North: “I wanted people to be in a glamorous space, not just a clubby space — glamour of the old-school variety.” Part of achieving this aura, Doell says, was “to use light in a more alluring way. I have definite ideas about how I want light to work in a space.”

Doell joined forces with lighting designer Richard Rutherford from Rutherford Design in Northridge, CA, with whom he had collaborated on Blush. “Charles always creates an intense palette,” says Rutherford. “Then we go about morphing palettes back and forth to make things work.” To put together the lighting palette for 210 North, Rutherford used a package of LEDs, moving heads, color changers, and control from Elation Professional.

According to Doell and Rutherford, the sprawling second-floor club provided intriguing possibilities to do some really spectacular and different things with lighting. The space, a former restaurant that was completely gutted, also posed some serious technical and design challenges. For example, there was the escalator — ideal for staging a theatrical Hollywood-type entranceway — where the designers envisioned enchanting vintage-inspired lampshades wrapped around LEDs that would bathe the vestibule and stairwell in slowly changing colors. The massive height of the ceiling, however, made it virtually impossible to hang fixtures in the area.

The solution was to build a huge 50' floating ceiling of glossy-black vinyl. Large circular lampshades — 14' in diameter — were hung from the vinyl ceiling by a general contractor, and each contains 15 Alkalite Octopod 36 color-changing LED pods from Elation. The shades' custom steel frames are covered in a stretch vinyl that was applied by a specialty wrap team after they were hung and allows the light beams to penetrate upward and reflect off the glossy ceiling, in addition to shining downward.

Aluminum chains are draped on both sides of the escalator vestibule. The silver chains create a highly reflective surface on the walls, significantly helping to light the area. Eighteen Elation Alkalite Trackpod-81 LED boards are mounted at the top of the chain walls, radiating even more colored lights. “The whole vestibule is one huge color-changing experience,” says Doell.

In addition to providing an anchor for lighting fixtures, the floating vinyl ceiling extends into the rooms at the top of the escalator. It ties together the vestibule space with the dance floor on one side, and the Divinity lounge on the other, giving the whole area a visually integrated theme.

The Divinity lounge is the epitome of luxury, with glittering chrome curtains, velvet loveseats, and a white marble bar. But its most magnificent feature is a blown-glass chandelier by London artist Eva Menz, shaped like a free-form 3D wave. The chandelier comprises 5,000 individual glass pieces, each of which had to be hand-strung. Four Elation Vision Color 250 color changers reflect light off of the chandelier, adding to the venue's color-morphing experience.

In another of the club's main lounges, the spatial configuration presented a rare opportunity to create an unusual backlit colored wall behind the bar. The 30' wall was outfitted with laminated frosted glass 10' high. Because there was an unused room behind the wall, projectors could be placed behind the glass, backlighting the bar with striking colors and patterns.

“Hardcore architainment,” is how Rutherford describes the overall lighting experience at 210 North. To control the LEDs and other lighting fixtures that create this experience, Rutherford chose an Elation AR-32 512-channel wall-mount architectural recorder/playback system. “All of the architainment is controlled with the AR-32,” he explains. “It's a very easy system to operate from a facility-management standpoint. The owner doesn't need to be a programmer, just an operator.”

Another Elation controller, the Show Designer-2CF, controls the moving lights on the club's main dance floor, outfitted with Elation's Power Spot 250 and Power Wash 250 moving heads.

“There are a lot more expensive ways to do what we did,” Rutherford notes, “but we went with Elation because of the quality you get for the price.” He adds that Elation technical specialist Ray Villasenor flew in during the install. “He really knows his stuff and helped pull everything together.”

For all its intricacies, the club's lighting installation took six crew members eight days from start to finish — an accomplishment Rutherford attributes to “planning, planning, planning. We were pretty well prepared,” he says. “Charles gets really committed to his design concepts.” As for the final outcome, Rutherford adds, “It's pretty amazing to see the room shift colors in real time. It's such an immersive environment.”

The final product is typical of Doell clubs, which go beyond the realm of design to become complete social environments — unique spaces that make evocative statements of their own. The milieu of 210 North is one where cutting-edge, 21st-century lighting technology harkens back to the glittering days of silver-screen Hollywood glamour.

This retro feel becomes even more apparent when the lights are out, says Doell. “I took some black-and-white photos of the club, and it actually looks very vintage,” he remarks. “All the lampshades and crystal give it a very retro look that's kind of a throwback to a more captivating era.”

At the same time, LEDs and other advanced lighting technologies propel 210 North steps ahead into the future.

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