Chicago’s Premiere Lounge of Sound
Chicago – A trio of Chicago’s nightlife style-makers, restaurateurs Terry Alexander and Donnie Madia and DJ Joe Bryl, teamed up to open Chicago’s most innovative lounge of sound, Sonotheque, at 1444 W. Chicago Avenue. A unique music venue, Sonotheque is Chicago’s foremost platform for local and international DJ’s and a superlative showcase for artistic musical and visual collaboration.
Designed first as an acoustically precise room for a world-class sound system and second as an intimate lounge, Sonotheque delivers a pure quality of sound unparalleled in Chicago nightclubs. Stressing tonality rather than
thumping base, the venue is the first in America to use England’s outstanding Funktion One speakers. Combined with precision sound insulation, the club features the sound-controlling technology of a recording studio in a club environment. As a result, the lounge offers exceptional musical integrity balanced by design elements that serve to reflect, refract and absorb sound.
Sonotheque’s heavy emphasis on DJ talents demands a constant source of freshness and fluidity to keep the vibe current. Under the musical direction of Managing Partner Joe Bryl, Sonotheque has been developed as a setting where Chicago and international groove merchants can stretch their creativity and showcase their musical breadth. The library of sound at Sonotheque will allow for a year’s worth of current, experimental, vintage and ethnic tunes before repeating any one track.
One of Chicago’s most exacting and expansive DJs, Bryl has been a fixture on Chicago’s underground scene for nearly two decades. An originator of Hot House and formerly General Manager of the Green Mill, Bryl is also known for his own spinning at hot spots such as the China Club, Vinyl, and Funky Buddha Lounge.
Complementing the music, Terry Alexander (Mia Francesca, Mod, and Danny’s Tavern) and Donnie Madia (Blackbird) have brought their restaurant backgrounds and fearless energy to developing Sonotheque’s ambiance. Known for pushing the boundaries of a fine dining experience, both have created spaces marked by award-winning, yet uncompromising and assertive design. Alexander’s own Okno was a bold experimentation in blending DJ-driven music and dining; while at Blackbird, partner Donnie Madia has developed a world-class restaurant that breaks all the rules of fine dining environments.
Pure forms of intersecting planes create the minimalist aesthetic that dominates the space. Designed by Suhail with art direction from Alexander, Madia and Bryl, the sleek lounge stands out against the splashy design signature found at Suhail’s installations such as Sugar, Mod, Tizi Melloul, and MTV’s Real World house.
United States Gypsum’s aluminum powder-coated geometric tiles that dress the building’s exterior are repeated in the interior ceiling, using their lines and forms to draw the guest into the space. Barstools topped in dove-gray ultra suede line up in front of a Zodiaq quartz bartop manufactured by DuPont. Housing the bottles and glassware, a dark brown linear box floats on the wall behind the bar, lit by a slim stream of light to create beauty within the bar’s functionality. Low, modular seating runs along the opposite wall, grouping into clusters at each end of the space. Breaking up the seating is the club’s luminescent DJ booth, centerstage and encased in sandblasted glass panels from floor to ceiling.
The design process began with an acoustical study of how to adapt sound to the application prior to developing the interior layout of the lounge. Acoustical materials have been adapted from their functional form to serve as artistic statements throughout. Ceiling tiles cut into narrow strips are stacked and wrap around the entryway and across the eastern wall above the bar. Industrial sound boarding and Soundwave’s Snowcrash sound paneling serve as Sonotheque’s primary ornamentation. A final wall installation of thermo-formed refractor panels cast from custom wood molds was designed by Suhail to hang along the back wall.
The sound system itself was a collaboration between Sound Investments, Suhail and Bryl. Suhail designed around the placement of the speakers to maximize their performance without compromising design. Appearing to float within a neon blue halo, the speakers are set into cubby holes along the north and south walls. The architecture of the speakers’ housing itself is flush with the south wall and serves to break up the room’s floor plan by forming a seating area along the north wall.
Sonotheque’s duel back-screen projection system is designed to show art-related images for collaborations with visual artists. Along with intermittent video projections, Sonotheque is planning a monthly series of video installations, curated by Ed Marszewski, Editor of both Lumpen and Select magazines. Spontaneous video shows developed and produced by DJ’s will also be shown and plans for live music presentations are in the works.
The restaurant background of Alexander and Madia is evident in the attention to every detail, from the glassware to the exceptional staff training. Boutique liquors and line the back bar and a restaurateur’s hand is evident in the concise wine list. While the prices are kept purposefully low, Sonotheque offers a range of beers, wines and liquors to match any budget, from $2.00 Pabst Blue Ribbon beer to $250 Dom Perignon. Their goal is to bring the philosophies of elegance found in modern fine dining into the club setting, attracting a wider range of clientele into the space.