Case Study 3: Lucky Voice Pod

Client: Lucky Voice
Architectural and interior designer: Waugh Thistleton
Partners: Andrew Waugh and Anthony Thistleton
Project team: Andrew Waugh and Anthony Thistleton
Lighting designer (at Lucky Voice Bar): Into Lighting
Main contractor: Barker MCT
Address: The pod is a standalone unit designed for mass production and installation into any environment

The brief: Create an individual, prefabricated, self-contained karaoke room that can be dropped into any bar, restaurant or similar interior space.

Shoreditch-based architect Waugh Thistleton didn’t set out to design a single room for mass manufacture when it created the interior for the hugely successful Soho karaoke bar, Lucky Voice. But, according to co-director Anthony Thistleton, the construction phase of the karaoke bar, built in traditional fashion, was ‘problematic… it was exceptionally demanding of time, energy and materials to create rooms required to be independently structured for soundproofing and other intricate issues’.

The on-site and site-specific problems were ones that neither designer nor client wanted to repeat and they sought a way to simplify the process for the future. Waugh Thistleton and Lucky Voice came up with the idea for what Thistleton calls ‘a comfortable, floating space’. They ultimately produced the Lucky Voice Pod, an individual, pre-fabricated karaoke ‘pod’ that can be dropped into any bar, restaurant or similar interior space.
Lucky Voice and Waugh Thistleton enlisted Barker MCT, a specialist producer of off-site prefabricated rooms, to develop a complete prototype that could replicate the finishes used on the rooms at Lucky Voice Bar. Using their patent-pending modular component technology system, Barker MCT developed an innovative and highly efficient technique of slotting a series of panels together quickly and easily, using components made in a factory.

The modular, flat-panelled, 2m-high Lucky Voice Pod is fully constructed in approximately two days and can accommodate six to 14 people simply by adding panels and seat cushions. Vertical and horizontal joints allow panels to be slotted in and out easily, meaning they can be repaired without too much downtime. The fully soundproofed pods are also fire-resistant and have thermal insulation.
The bespoke pods were designed to be in keeping with the look and brand of the Lucky Voice Bar’s interior and private rooms. With the Japanese story of karaoke in mind, the interiors of the pods are a vivid red and feature low lighting, giving off a combined feeling of warmth and energy. The exterior is a simple and sleek black polished shell. The windowless, womb-like space was designed to make visitors lose their inhibitions and get themselves in the mood. Thistleton spent a year refining it, during which it built a spaceof timber and canvas in the next-door office
to get an idea of how big the room would be and how it would feel.
One consideration for the self-contained room is the air conditioning and ventilation system. Air conditioning units are placed under the seat cushions and air is extracted through the ceiling. All the materials were chosen for durability and their ability to withstand ‘a lot of energy and a lot of booze’, says Thistleton. The pods are subjected to an enormous amount of abuse, so the designers had to downgrade the material used for the floor to a very industrial surface, while the banquettes and walls are made from hardwearing leather, which is the easiest covering to repair.

Certain materials and stages have been excluded from the process and the designers had to eliminate rounded ceilings from their initial scheme so the joints would line up. Thistleton also points out the difference between designing a prefabricated structure outdoors and erecting a prefabricated room within an existing room: building regulations, technical issues and even the weight of the panels make the process somewhat more complicated.

Malcolm Birchwood, Barker MCT’s managing director, is looking to reduce the enormous weight of the panels by half. ‘It would be far easier if the pods were to go into big open spaces,’ says Birchwood. According to both the designers and manufacturer, the quality of finishes is much higher and there is superior quality control because the components are all made and monitored in the factory.

A finished pod costs £18 000 to £30 000 depending on the number of people it is to accommodate. Through research and development, Birchwood says he is hoping to reduce this figure and believes that the Barker MCT technique will be able to reduce actual on-site time by 25-50 per cent. In July, eight of the fully demountable Lucky Voice Pods were installed at Manchester nightclub Tiger Tiger. In September, Barker MCT was invited to showcase the pod at 100% Design at Earls Court in London, where a Lucky Voice Pod and its problem-solving, flat-packing system was displayed.
Completion date – July 2007
What song would you karaoke to?
• Anthony Thistleton – Depeche Mode, ‘Master and Servant’
• Andrew Waugh – Johnny Cash, ‘Walk the Line’
• Malcolm Birchwood – The Monkees, ‘Daydream Believer’

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