Night Time Is The Right Time  

From John Travolta seeking freedom on the dance floor to the culture of ‘stepping out’ at the weekend and becoming more glamorous, night-time has long been seen as a chance for transformation and metamorphosis.

What people do as individuals and groups, can also happen to buildings. Indeed, metamorphosis at night increasingly must happen to more buildings, spaces and places for them to function more efficiently and effectively.

Our architects, designers and engineers are increasingly thinking about spaces that can change function and identity around different parts of the day.  But the pioneers of urban change are not always architects or urban planners. The ruins created by the post-industrial economy– warehouses and factories – were re-engineered by young people bringing their unofficial, sub-cultural capital to the built environment, transforming decrepit workspaces into studios, dance and party spaces. This youthful spirit of flexibility and transformation is increasingly embedded into new thinking around the design and functionality of buildings.

 It is notable that several of the finalists in our competition do not seek to build anew but to repurpose at night – from canals to stations to empty offices, with the aid of apps, innovative lighting and more.


Ministry Of Sound, OMA, London

 Sitting behind OMA’s project for the Ministry of Sound is the belief in nightclubs as a source of progressive social change. Between the 1960s and 2000s, these spaces were experiments in social form-finding, expressed in a unique assemblage of culture, music, technology and enterprise. In 2015 OMA won a competition to design a new home for the world-famous nightclub with a building that transforms from day to night – the walls mechanically lift up and down and its multi-functional interiors (including a ‘holodeck’ space) express the multiple identities of its night-time citizens. The project was cancelled in 2017 due to delays in the redevelopment of the wider area. 


The Club, Bureau A, Lisbon

Designed and constructed by Swiss studio Bureau A for the 2016 Lisbon Triennale, The Club amplifies and intensifies the idea of a club in a cabin-sized entity for 25 people. Like the Jamaican sound-systems which inspired it, the modular entity of The Club can move anywhere immediately, changing its space. In this way, the improvisational nature of The Club’s architecture, whose modularity enables it to take on many forms and shapes, follows the tradition of dance culture which in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s transformed the daytime factory ruins and warehouses of post-industrial cities into spaces of celebration and escape.


St. Giles Circus, Orms, London

Between 2007-2015, London lost 35% of its grassroots music venues such as the Astoria and Madame JoJo’s. However, as visitors emerge from Tottenham Court Road tube station, they will immediately encounter London as a creative performance space. The mixed-use, mixed-time St. Giles Circus will feature a four-storey Urban Gallery, a reconstructed 280 capacity grassroots music venue and an 800 capacity venue to host concerts, event broadcasts and fashion shows. It will have a fully retractable facade at ground level that will transform the outdoor plaza into a semi-covered town square. First image for this project shows the original listed ‘Smithy’ before reconstruction.


Shelter, Bureau A, Geneva 

The nightclub is a space where night-time doubles down on its play of light and dark, a space that is licensed for different rhythms, assignations and the romance of the accidental connection – a psychology of the subterranean. Swiss studio Bureau A designed this inflatable PVC nightclub for the Bund Schweizer Architekten for their summer party. The black membrane was installed inside Pavillon Scili in Geneva. The night-time as a transportable, metamorphic underground space.


Mclarena, Daily Tous Les Jours, Montreal

The transition of cities from daytime to night-time, from work to play, from fast to slow is a metamorphosis of space through rhythm. It is this dimension that Montreal-based interaction design studio, Daily tous les jours, explore with McLarena a mobile film recording studio and dance floor housed in a shipping container. Inspired by Norman McLaren’s 1964 film Canon (which explores the compositional technique of the musical form whereby a leader plays a melody which is then imitated or transformed by a follower), the recording booth captures the participants’ body movements and edits them in real-time into video that is projected large-scale on the adjacent building walls. 

View their competition entry here


Lumen, Jenny Sabin, New York

Thinking of daytime and night-time as ecology rather than chronology, Jenny Sabin’s Lumen is a knitted space whose material absorbs UV light and offers shade and shelter during the day, while at night the structure emits the light in a soft glow. Sabin’s project won New York’s MoMA PS1 (Museum of Modern Art) Young Architect Prize for 2017 and is an assemblage of code, knitting, recycled textiles, photo-luminescent and solar active yarns, the structure changing and responding to both immediate physical contact and atmospheric contact. 


Metamaterial Bricks, University of Sussex and University of Bristol

These 3D-printed bricks shape sound so that it can be delivered only where needed: in invisible tangible shapes, in a spotlight or even behind corners. The sound is shaped using combinations of 16 bricks (4-bits). Using algorithms, anyone can now turn a desired sound distribution into a set of instructions on how to assemble the bricks. Eventually, this device will be placed in front any speaker to manipulate sound on demand, just like LCDs do with light.