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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Sea and safari

It is a nautical theme for Louis Vuitton's store, while Pangaea club is going for a wild vibe
The Straits Times - September 17, 2011
By: Natasha Ann Zachariah
| More
Sea and safari Located at the promenade of Marina Bay Sands (above), the two floating jewel-like islands will house French fashion label Louis Vuitton and exclusive American nightclub Pangaea. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

At last, all is revealed about what those odd-shaped floating 'islands' at the Marina Bay Sands promenade hold inside them.

High-end fashion house Louis Vuitton and the super exclusive American nightclub brand Pangaea will finally open their doors over the next few days, after months of keeping the interiors top secret.

Life! got a good gawk at the lavishness within, before the rest of Singapore gets its chance.

And what lavishness it is. Each has spared no expense in designs that will wow its well-heeled clientele.

Housed on both ends of the waterfront boardwalk, the striking glass-and-steel structures were designed by world-renowned Israeli- born architect Moshe Safdie, who also designed the rest of the resort's architecture.

Each pavilion has two levels above ground and another two underwater. The lowest level is connected to the main building, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, via underwater tunnels.

The first floor above ground has a boardwalk link.

The new businesses join a line-up of high-end brands at the $7-billion casino and resort, including Yves Saint Laurent, Hermes, Van Cleef & Arpels and Patek Philippe.

The opening of both pavilions marks the completion of Marina Bay Sands, which has opened in stages since April last year.

Both brands were inspired by Mr Safdie's architectural concept for the building, and recreate that luxe factor inside.

Pangaea's founder and operator Michael Ault, 48, tells Life!: 'It's one of the most extraordinary pieces of architectural art. Moshe Safdie really outdid himself with the crystal pavilions.

'It was an incredible challenge to fit out the interior of what is basically theinside of a diamond.'

As for Louis Vuitton, its architecture department's director David McNulty is impressed that the pavilions were not 'just a square box'.

The 48-year-old, who established LV's architecture department in 1996, says: 'It's such a beautiful object and the geometry proved to be a challenge. But it really is a jewel in the crown of the development.'

With LV officially opening tomorrow and Pangaea next Thursday, Life! checks out the stylish interiors.

natashaz@sph.com.sg

PANGAEA

American celebrity nightclub Pangaea is famous for lounges decked out in an African, tribal-influenced design. Think skulls, masks and spears.

But at the club that opens here next Thursday, expect a slightly milder walk on the wild side.

It has toned down the tribe vibe so as not to spook superstitious clubbers. Founder and operator of the club Michael Ault says: 'We found out that skulls here mean death and bad luck, and I didn't want to do anything that would negatively impact our Asian guests, so we decided to go in a different direction.'

But patrons at the local Pangaea, which means 'all lands' in Greek, can be assured that the jungle look remains. It has stayed true to the original concept of a luxurious lounge-club that replicates an African safari lodge.

Mr Ault, who moved here from the United States a year ago to be involved with the conceptualising and building of the lounge, says: 'Singaporeans like things that are new, shiny and flashy, so what we've done is a super slick, modern version of our other Pangaeas.'

The club brand has been a nightlife staple in cities such as New York, Marbella, Florida and London as the playground for numerous celebrities including pop star Madonna and actress Cameron Diaz.

Today, only Pangaea Marbella and Florida remain.

The Singapore Pangaea sits underwater, below mega dance club Avalon, which takes up the top two levels above ground at the southern crystal pavilion.

The main concept of the club is bottle service, where customers can book a VIP table starting at $1,000 for a table for five and up to $15,000 for 20 people at the VIP lounge area. It can host about 450 people at a time ' 300 seated and 150 standing.

Pangaea imposes a $40 cover charge for general admission, while table bookings are exempt from this.

However, do not expect to get in easily. Those who do not have a reservation are picked from the queue. 'So definitely dress up and put your party face on and you'll get through the door,' says Mr Ault.

Membership is limited and by-invitation only.

In line with the African safari-theme, the 6,000 sq ft Pangaea has walls and cushions covered in animal skins such as ostrich, snake and crocodile. The bar tops have real zebra-hide encased in tempered glass.

The attention to detail is amazing. Take the raised floor section of the club tiling: The 2.5cm-thick, clear-cut tree trunks have been laid individually so the patterns of their rings swirl away from one another.

It took 12 people weeks to create a stone wall near the entrance of the club, where they stuck stones of varying textures and shine.

The tables are made of 1,000-year-old Saur trees from Bali. Huge pieces of Indonesian driftwood hang from the wall.

The inspiration for Pangaea evolved from Mr Ault's childhood memories of going on safari in Africa with his parents.

The 48-year-old says of those trips: 'I mostly grew up on safaris and was fascinated by that lifestyle. The experiences were incredible, so I decided to bring it to the club scene.'

The 30-year nightclub veteran is adding a personal touch by bringing in 16 tribal masks from his own collection, which will be housed in glass-encased niches behind the bar.

But the club design does deviate a little from the safari theme. Instead of a white, canopy ceiling as in the other clubs, there are 20,000 glass baubles dangling from the ceiling in Singapore's Pangaea to create a bubbly, champagne-like atmosphere.

There is also a customised bookshelf with white, leather-bound tomes.

The only way into the club is from the second basement level of the Marina Bay Sands mall, through an underwater tunnel.

Strobe lights embedded in the 30m tunnel wall are more reminiscent of a Kanye West music video rather than the entrance to a safari-themed club.

Mr Ault likens the walk as preparation for getting away from the rest of the world. 'It's like getting on a boat to go to an island. The journey cleanses and detoxes you so by the time you get to Pangaea, the worries and demons of the day are gone, and you're out to have fun.'

He estimates that Pangaea and Avalon, which share the same parent company Crystal Pavilion Marina Productions, cost between US$70 million (S$87million) and US$80 million to design and build. The price is not far off the most expensive nightclub ever built - the $100-million XS Las Vegas Club.

All the luxurious furnishings make it easy to forget that Pangaea is essentially a club where people go to dance.

However, those waiting to bust a move will be surprised: Unlike other clubs, Pangaea has a no-dance floor concept. Clubbers are encouraged to dance wherever they like, even on ledges behind the couches that have been carefully measured and built to ensure enough dancing space.

Mr Ault, who is married with a three-year-old son, says: 'It is counterproductive to creating high energy when you have to dance away from your friends and alcohol.'

Pangaea promises a fantasy escape place where you can be who you want and do what you like, says Mr Ault. 'You can sit back and hide, or come to be seen. This is a very visual club, and we've created a place for people to come on this ride.'

LOUIS VUITTON

With a waterfront setting, it seemed only natural to the people at French fashion house Louis Vuitton to build a store with its interior modelled after a luxury boat.

The nautical-inspired maison, which means house in French, includes a colour scheme of jaunty blues, whites and browns.

The feel of a boat deck is evoked through the use of timber such as teak for the flooring. Other nautical details include portholes, ropes and deck furniture.

Rest assured, though, that when it opens tomorrow, the 41,000 sq ft store will offer LV's much- coveted men's and women's leather goods, ready- to-wear outfits, jewellery, shoes and watches.

But being a byword for the luxe life means more than just creating a fantastical boat theme for this, the brand's latest store.

Here are some more features that put the 'oh' into opulence: The maison contains a bookstore, an art gallery and its own floating jetty where boats can dock.

LV's architectural design director for the Asia-Pacific region, Mr Kar-Hwa Ho, 48, says: 'Maisons are born out of the context of where they are located. The character of this one is such that the nautical theme works here, and would not, for example, in London.'

The four-storey maison is one of 12 around the world, since LV's first one along the Champs-Elysees in Paris in 2005.

This is the first such one in South-east Asia. It took the LV team, including its architecture department director David McNulty, together with internationally acclaimed American architect Peter Marino, about a year to complete.

The top two floors are encapsulated by the glass walls of the pavilion, and Mr McNulty says the biggest challenge was to protect shoppers and LV's leather goods from direct sunlight.

The solution was to add protective screens to the glass. 'The protection reflects about 80 per cent of the heat, which can be uncomfortable if you're shopping,' he says. 'But at the same time, we wanted to keep a lot of the views because it's a beautiful sight.'

The mezzanine level is dedicated to travel goods. This harks back to the brand's history as a luggage maker. Customers can order custom- made items such as a trunk with an in-built roulette wheel, or have their initials monogrammed on an LV bag while they chill out at a private lounge decorated with plush white sofas and a bookcase.

Access to the lounge is only for VIP guests with appointments.

Customers can also step outside the mezzanine onto a loggia, or deck, which overlooks the small floating jetty. Mr Ho says: 'They fit quite easily together because it's all connected by the water theme. The notion of travel is always present, so we used the opportunity to express it in the design.'

There is also a bookstore that is accessed through the Marina Bay Sands Shoppes mall, selling travel, design and art books.

As for the art gallery on the same floor, it has 16 contemporary works by artists - including Singaporean artists Charles Lim and Eric Chan - on the theme of islands.

On having a retail space, bookstore and art gallery, Mr McNulty says: 'They are not all separate spaces, but rather integrated into the store itself. It's not at all a problem to have art in the store or have it close to the products. One doesn't detract from the other.'

Mr Ho, who is a Singaporean based in Paris, adds: 'It still feels like a Louis Vuitton store. We just did a slight twist to reinforce the nautical theme. Also, as we do more of these stores, we want to offer the customer another experience than just shopping.'

 

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