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Boca Restaurant inside the Conga Room

CONGA ROOM AT LA LIVE

For over a decade, the Conga room has been a Los Angeles cultural landmark. The Latin live music and dance venue was LA’s center for Salsa and Rumba. The original location closed in 2006 with the goal of opening a new venue in the new “LA Live” complex in Downtown, Los Angeles. The new home would contain a 16,000 sq ft live music and dance space made up of a multitude of programs—a large dance floor, a stage, multiple VIP areas, a full-service restaurant and three bars, each with their own unique environment. Collaboration with Cuban artist Jorge Pardo and Mexican muralist Sergio Arau, designers of the Papaya Bar and Surface Tattoos, respectively, was essential.

As if coordinating and blending the variegated programs and styles together wasn’t challenging enough, the space, originally planned for office use, had a very low and equipment-filled ceiling to negotiate and needed to operate within a mixed-use building. As a consequence, three major factors began to drive the design process: First, the space had to be acoustically isolated from the rest of the building while simultaneously performing acoustically for its performers and patrons. Second, it was anticipated that the club would continuously be filled to capacity, thus most conventional architectural devices—walls and floors, would be obfuscated by patrons. Finally, the club was located on the second floor of the building off of the main plaza—a classic foible for restaurant and club operators who commonly have difficulty in beguiling patrons up a flight of stairs or elevators. The solution was to use the ceiling to perform as the spatial organizer, the primary acoustical isolater/amplifer and event attractor.

Tornado with the vibrance of the flowing ceiling

In an effort to meet the client’s desires for an aesthetic that reflected the vibrancy and dynamism of Latin culture, the ceiling surface, fashioned from a series of Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC)-milled, painted plywood panels, was created from an assemblage of diamond patterns, which were initially derived from the classic Cuban Rumba dance step. Each panel represented a Petal while groupings of six Petals constituted a Flower. Parametric 3D modeling and building performance software aided in the proliferation of the Flowers in a unified, undulating surface that waned and blossomed, delineating each of the unique environments within the club. As the event attractor, the ceiling panels converged into a 20-foot tall glowing Tornado that penetrated the dance floor, inviting and guiding patrons up to the activities in the club. To further intensify the experience, the room boasted an integral, state-of-the-art LED lighting system which gave the ceiling the ability to change color and atmosphere at the push of the button or even react to, in real time, the rhythms and sounds of the music, becoming an active participant in the scene.

AWARDS

2015 Interior Design Best of Year “Best in 10”: Bar/Lounge
2011 American Institute of Architects Honor Award
2010 American Institute of Architects, LA Design Award: Citation Award
2010 American Institute of Architects California Council Award
2009 Interior Design Magazine- Best of the Year Award
2009 American Architecture Awards - Chicago Athenaeum
2009 International Property Awards (America’s Property Award): Interior Design Award
2009 American Institute of Architects, Restaurant Design Award: Honor Award
2009 Los Angeles Business Council Architecture Award: Commercial Interior

PUBLICATIONS

Designpeakpack: Commercial Space (China)
Tasarim: No. 223 (Turkey)
Light in Architecture (Germany)
Contemporanea AD: #13 (Brazil)
AIA 2010-2012 Designs For The New Decade
Architect
A5 Los Angeles
Night Fever 2, Hospitality Design (Netherlands)
India Spice Today (India)
Interior Design & Space (Malaysia)
Architectural Digest (Russia)
Interior Design Magazine
IW Magazine (Taiwan)
Spa-de, International Review of Interior Architecture (Japan)
IW Magazine Detail 10 (Taiwan)

Courtesy of Belzberg Architects: http://belzbergarchitects.com/project/conga-room/