words Fatema Ahmed
image Alexandre Guirkinger
For the last two years the French designer Raphael Navot has been commuting between Paris and Los Angeles to work with the film director David Lynch on Club Silencio. It’s named after the club in Lynch’s 2001 film Mulholland Drive and Navot says his task was “to translate the scenography of David Lynch into design”. Sometimes there was “a very clear description: a drawing, a sketch or a perspective”; at other times, “Lynch would describe a situation rather than give a description.” Once the pair agreed on the details they had to find out if it was practical to turn their fantasy into floors and walls and furniture.
The real Club Silencio is in the Bourse district of Paris, in the basement of existing music venue the Social Club (they’re under the same ownership). The private members’ club is a 650sq m space which has been divided into a series of spaces arranged around the central bar: a live stage, cinema, art library, lounge and smoking room, the latter complete with floor-to-ceiling bamboo “trees” which have ashtrays placed at points along their trunks.
Particular care has been paid to doorways: each one, Navot explains, asks you to “cross a frame into another space”, and each space is expanded in turn through the use of mirrors.
The walls of the lounge are covered in wooden cladding blocks which have been painted in gold leaf by Ateliers Gohard – the firm which maintains all the gilding at Versailles. Navot says, “I think gold has a bad reputation. We tried to get away from the old associations.” In fact, there’s no paint in the club at all; so when there aren’t mirrors, it’s all gold or brass leaf, which feels as luxurious as it sounds – aristocratic even.
The bar, with its reflective copper surfaces, feels almost steampunkish; Navot confirms that they wanted to create “a nostalgic future”. In Mulholland Drive, what the two main characters find at the club calls into question everything we think has happened earlier. It’s a disturbing (but exhilarating) atmosphere, one that its real-life namesake has chosen not to copy in every detail.