As the design force behind aesthetically innovative venues like Yellowtail at the Bellagio and the infamous Voyeur nightclub in LA, Josh Held knows a thing or two about breaking the nightlife mold. That’s precisely why he was Light Group’s go-to guy when the local hospitality company and Cirque du Soleil conceived of the boundary-pushing interactive megaclub Light, slated to open Friday at Mandalay Bay. So just how do you fit “light”—not to mention performers, technology and theatrics—into the dark, crowded paradigm of a nightclub? For Held, it’s all in a day’s work.
- Light Nightclub
- Friday-Sunday, 10 p.m.
- Mandalay Bay, 588-5656.
What aspects of design specifically are under your purview at Light? All the interior design. Everything from the planning of the space and arranging where things are to every surface that you feel or touch or see, everything you sit on or stand in front of, everything you put a drink on top of.
From your first conversation with Light Group to now, how did the concept develop? Did they come to you with the “Light” idea already in mind? From the initial conversation, it was always going to be a collaboration with Cirque du Soleil, and it was always going to be this new re-envisioning of what a nightclub is. The design directive was to make a different product from what is out there right now that people will get excited about. They wanted to create this nightclub that doesn’t just offer you the opportunity to stand around or sit at a table and drink alcohol. It gives you this 360-degree experience; there’s performers and a narrative and a dialogue. There’s a story that’s being told, and it evolves through the night, and it’s different if you come back on Tuesday versus Thursday.
So once it was in your hands, what were the next steps? I sat with creatives from Cirque; the team from the architect of record; the club audio designers, which is John Lyons; the club lighting, which is also John Lyons. We sat in the basement of the Viva Elvis Cirque training room with a roll of trace paper and came up with what the plan was going to be for the club. It was just a very integrated, involved and fluid process from that day forward. We all talked to each other, bounced things off of each other and really made our stories intertwined.
What was the biggest challenge for you in the process? There were an enormous amount of creative challenges. One was the amount of different spaces that had to be renovated in the venue. We had a huge space to work with, which wasn’t necessarily a stumbling block; it was just the fact that there were so many different aspects that needed to be interwoven. You have to consider DJs, potential Light events, Cirque performers flying around you. There’s an enormous amount of technology involved in what we’re doing; there’s different types of lighting and video and rigging for the Cirque experience. To keep that all in check while at the same time designing a place that looks great and functions great, that was the biggest challenge. And at the end of the day, the real goal is to make sure that you as a customer come in and you have an extraordinary experience.
When you think of a nightclub, you think of a dark, dimly lit, sexy space. How did you go about translating the concept of “light” to that kind of space? At the end of the day, it still has to be dark and sexy. ... Every project is like a sculpture; you’re not just going to put it on paper and then it’s done and comes out perfect. Every step of the way, you massage things and check them against your original conception and narrative and how you wanted it to be. As we go along, we adjust lighting; we adjust the colors of lights; we adjust everything so that in combination it’s what that final vision needs to be.