Planet lounge wizard: At a new purpose-built London nightclub, it's computers and not ecstasy that influence your behaviour. James Robertson gets hi-tech

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The Independent Culture
The hype-machine was in top gear well before the plaster dried on the walls of London's latest nightclub, the Leisure Lounge. Gone are the days of rave tents, muddy fields and location addresses broadcast by pirate radio stations. Police, politicians and 'outraged from Dorchester' have won the day and clubbers are being wooed back into the organised environment of the nightclub.

There are two elements which separate the Leisure Lounge from virtually every other club: its design and the slick promotion. 'The Leisure Lounge is a club where Star Trek meets virtual reality,' enthuses club promoter Sean McLusky. 'We've built a club for the next millennium and have dedicated it to a generation nurtured on sci-fi imagery and influenced by an era of computer technology.'

Laminated press card clamped in my sweaty palm, I arrived on the opening night. Expecting banks of videos, computer monitors and the occasional virtual reality machine, I was pleasantly surprised to find not so much as a byte.

'It's more subtle than that,' explains Clive Sall, one of the club's architects. 'There are two major areas in which computer influences are apparent. Firstly, the lighting. Traditional lighting creates shadows. Computer lighting doesn't. No matter which way you look at a monitor the light doesn't change. It's coming straight at you. The computer also influences the actions we make. All around the club we have subtly influenced people's behaviour.'

Take the entry kiosk, a stainless steel sheet with a small slit to see the cashier and a shoebox tunnel to depart with your money. A bit hostile, isn't it? 'Well computers can be hostile, because they insist, with the use of dialogue boxes and menus, that you carry out unambiguous actions.'

The huge bar, with its rows of fridges and curved front, seems to be moving against my weight. 'This spring-loaded bar has unwittingly forced you to curve your body to fit its shape and to press against it,' the architect says. 'It has manipulated you.'

The club has been cleverly conceived, but it's more than mere concepts. The main dance floor is in a long room with a 25 ft angled screen on one side and a two-tiered bench on the other. The chill-out area doubles as a gallery for the spectacular portrait photographs by Rankin which feature in a year-long exhibition entitled 'Hello Sexy and Welcome'.

The Leisure Lounge will be the success story of the year. Promoter McLusky has been employed to provide the most avant-garde club nights. Friday's Fantasy Ashtray deviates from house and garage, reverting back to punk and disco. At the opening, the Jam hogged the PA and the Buzzcocks played live at 1.30am. 'I want a fashionable crowd, but I want to encourage the nutters as well. Punk has energy and colour. It attracts all the characters. All I've done is give them a beautiful club to play in.'

Leisure Lounge, 121 Holborn, London EC1 (071-242 1345); Fri- Sat 11pm-6am, Sun (gay day) 12 noon-8pm

(Photograph omitted)