BEIRUT: In 2003, the country’s nightlife witnessed what was then a revolutionary concept: rooftop clubs, pioneered by none other than Beirut’s exclusive SKYBAR. The conspicuous, open-air party, with its panoramic view of the city’s coastline and architecture obscured every so often by pyrotechnics, was quickly embraced as an entertainment haven by the country’s young and elite.
This winter, parent company Sky Management launched its second Beirut venue – O1NE – what it hopes to become the winter equal of its rooftop success story.
The enormous cylindrical structure colors Downtown’s skyline like a heavily graffitied oil depot. Murals cover 3,500 square meters of facade, and inside, O1NE nightclub is a mixture of the same technology and state-of-the-art aesthetics that have made SKYBAR such a success.
“O1NE is more than a nightclub; O1NE is an entertainment haven,” Abraham Helal, business development and marketing manager of Sky management, told The Daily Star. “Just as Sky Bar became a landmark for outdoor clubbing, this will be the landmark for indoor partying.”
Aside from its gigantic interior capacity, which can cater up to 1,500 patrons, and larger-than-life graffiti, O1NE hopes to draw in top clientele with technology: 3-D projection mapping. This technology projects a 360 degree moving image that lines the circular interior walls with huge motion graphics that can portray anything from a St. Tropez beach to the far reaches of outer space.
The inspiration for the design came from Rome’s legendary amphitheater, the elliptical egg-shaped Colosseum.
“This was a history lesson for us,” Helal said. “We were inspired by its phenomenal design, the way people can see and hear everything around them simultaneously.”
Helal praised Sky Management’s CEO Chafic al-Khazen, who spearheaded the construction of O1NE Beirut from scratch.
“He is a pioneer in the field. He knew as early as 2008, which was when the concept of O1NE was conceived, that the future of clubbing and nightlife is no longer in conventional lighting and moving laser heads.”
Sky Management’s architect, Sari al-Khazen, also played an important role by proposing the orginal graffiti idea.
According to Helal, it was the Khazen brothers who then introduced the egg-shaped structure and the 3-D imagery. “They knew it’s now an ultimate experience of motion graphics and digital imagery that complement the music.”
The artwork, by 16 international artists, is rumored to have earned it the Guinness World Records title for largest privately owned graffiti wall.
“No graffiti this size has ever been done anywhere, let alone a nightclub,” Helal boasted.
O1NE’s story actually begins in Abu Dhabi.
In 2010, Sky Management was approached with an offer by Thinkflash Entertainment, one of the UAE’s big entertainment companies, to co-host the official Formula One Grand Prix on Yas Island.
“We had only seven days to build a temporary venue that would host 3,500 to 4,000 people,” Helal said. “It was very challenging.”
The Grand Prix was a huge success for the emirate, hosting 12 international artists, including record-selling names such as Prince, Flo Rida and PitBull. The agreement was repeated in the 2012, with other clubs like Cavalli and Cirque le Soir setting pop-up party venues in honor of the adrenaline-saturated Formula One. By 2013, a different union of a more permanent nature was about to take place.
“After the success of three consecutive years, we were offered to build a permanent branch of SKYBAR on Yas Island,” Helal said.
But there was one major obstacle standing in the way of the rooftop project: SKYBAR would have to be established on ground level.
“This was not in accordance with our values. SKYBAR would not be SKYBAR without the roof and clear skies.”
Sky Management decided to replicate O1NE’s concept, which at the time was already under construction in Beirut. The success of the Abu Dhabi venue has led the mother company to informally dub the project “The Experiment.”
Helal blamed the delay in launching O1NE Beirut on the “Lebanese way of doing things.”
“There are obstacles in Lebanon that don’t exist elsewhere, and it is part of the way we do things in Lebanon,” he said.
The experiment is so far successful. O1NE has been fully booked since it opened in mid-December.
“When you’re a leader in a specific segment, you always seek new ways to challenge and outdo yourself in your domain,” Helal said. “This is something we do on a daily basis.”
O1NE is currently open on weekends and holidays.