A surrealist speakeasy has opened in the heart of Dubai. The Secret Room, by Toronto based designer Paolo Ferrari, is a nightclub that deftly threads together space and time with authenticity. The complex design draws inspiration from the far corners of the world, not unlike the cultural panoply of Dubai, and grounds it within the subterranean depths of the Five Palm Jumeirah Hotel.
When we started this project, we had a visual of Villa Farnese, a Renaissance-era mansion in Rome, then we spliced it with Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate. We articulated this as the duality of history, the past, and invention, the future. It’s about creating a kind of ambiguity of time and place.P. Ferrari
Then, to anchor the idea of bacchanalian decadence with a feeling of noble restraint, the design team employed the concept of duality. Through that lens, a series of time travelling assemblages could complement each other, rather than overwhelm.
The Dalí-esque statement bar speaks to the future, while soft furnishings conjure up an aesthetic reminiscent of the 60s and 70s. The classic interior architecture of the walls, ceiling, and floors evoke older periods, alluding to the pre-20th century. These elements were also loosely inspired by the final moments of Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, set in a Louis XIV-era French bedroom.
The bronze coloured arched bar acts as a luminous showstopper in the nightclub. It serves as a visually weighty object of discovery for guests, and exudes an aerodynamic feel while also anchoring the space. The fibreglass bar was meticulously 3D modelled from the inside out then milled from custom moulds, not unlike fabricating a custom speedboat, and its design is mirrored in the sculpted aesthetic of the host and DJ station.
A series of pedestal drink tables are cast from clear resin and meant to recall the physical shape of liquid. These elements contrast with the carved wooden walls and smoked oak flooring, along with an artwork inspired by classic Italian bacchanal paintings and their hedonistic tendencies. It was hand painted in Canada over a series of six months.
Mirrors throughout the nightclub visually expand the sultry space, but it is upon opening a door to the bathroom that guests are transported to The Secret Room’s most experimental area. The act of moving from a dimly lit panelled corridor to an expansive, multidimensional space is otherworldly.