Andre Lazarev’s Moomia Lounge, on Lafayette Street in SoHo, buries a pharaonic crypt under an eastern kasbah. (See our gallery of the scene.) While the venue’s offerings of food, drink, and hookah are not unique, the architectural periods represented are: a hybrid of 20th-century styles. That is, 20th centuries A.D. and B.C., with both contemporary Moroccan and ancient Egyptian décor in the house.
Themed bars both fascinate and disorient. To run into one is reminiscent of meeting a captivating, specialized, and compulsively disordered stranger. Problem is, themes contain an inherent failure to effectuate a fantasy world, frequently resulting in a flaccid, half-conceived motif.
Yet a themed bar does dare to stimulate the imagination and open a window for escapism. The buildout must be unrelentingly detailed if it’s to immerse one in the cacophony of an all-encompassing psycho-geography. Lazarev’s dedication (the Russian designer as well as owner) inhabits every spatial construct here: in custom-fired floor tiles; in handmade mirror frames; in peripatetic murals on each and every wall; and even in the copper bar’s surfaces, which were crafted by Lazarev and his father. The details deluge. Thankfully, the more Spartan (not a classical Greek theme) hotel next door sources the restrooms; otherwise clientele would surely be wiping with artisanal papyrus scrolls.
The space behaves in a quasi-narrative manner, flowing linearly and taking the guest on a journey. The soaring front room, lined with cinderblock walls (perhaps lifted by pulley?), beckons one to behold the great built wonders of Egypt. A 10-foot mirror behind the solidly seated quadrangular bar helps expand perception. (Unfortunately, the fantastic skylight 30 feet above serves no light or purpose in a nightclub.) Stepped blocks channel the pyramids like a stone curtain retrenched by time, secretly opening the way further into the club. One then sinks to a burial chamber wherein lies a gilded pharaoh’s coffin (“made in Malaysia”), surrounded by hookah-laden banquettes. The beautifully deceased and wonderfully inebriated are celebrated by scenes from the Book of the Dead (pic6: Scenes from the Book of the Dead. Where’s the Rosetta stone when you need it?).
Paul Bowles’s post-WWII (and, hence, post-colonial) novel, The Sheltering Sky, explores the theme of “going native”. A laissez-faire New York couple explores French western Africa and its barbaric Berbers. Immersed in the morass of Morocco, loss and discovery come their way. Moomia also instigates a desire to go native — only here, the natives hail from Moscow, and one hopes that the discovery of too many vodkas won’t land one in a sarcophagus.
Dark Design explores nightlife spaces through the art of human aesthetics.