There is something beautiful about seeing palm trees in front of the industrial backdrop of Brooklyn and the towering points in the Manhattan skyline. It’s a view that you take in and appreciate because at the end of the summer it’ll simply be gone. Reynard Productions (the bold team behind building the esteemed Cityfox Experience event series) has generally stepped up the ante and expectation from event to event. Tightening a piece here, adding a piece there. Just when you thought that they’ve pushed the limit of a “pop up” venue, they respond with something else that feels a bit out of this world.
On July 4, Reynard Productions unveiled a summer project that seemed to be an enormous undertaking. The name: “The Brooklyn Mirage.” An outdoor venue filled with imported palm trees, real flowers and vines that crawl along the walls, and observation decks that allow you to look over a crowd of 3000 people all while taking in the view that will cease to be at summers end.
Pulse sat down with the minds behind the madness, Billy Bildstein and Marc Dizon, to walk us through how the Mirage was conceptualized, developed, and built in just a month’s time.
Tell us about your individual background working in the industry? What are some of your biggest accomplishments in the industry up to this point?
Billy: "I grew up in a gastronomy family in Austria. We had restaurants, bars, a pastry shop and my Dad opened the first nightclub in my small medieval hometown called Feldkirch, in 1986. We also ran an event production company in the 90’s. I helped out and worked in the restaurant, the bar, the event company and learned a lot from my Dad back then. At one point my hometown got a bit too small for me and I moved to Zurich in Switzerland, which was the closest bigger city. I fell in love with the nightlife scene there and eventually started my own event series called Cityfox in 2006. The concept was based on transforming a warehouse into a pop-up nightclub for one night only. We already invested a lot of time back then into one single night, countless labor hours. Our mission was to create the best experience for our friends and ourselves, inviting the best techno DJs from all over the world. In 2008 we made the next step and opened up our first permanent nightclub in the old stock market in Zurich. It was a big project and again, I learned a lot. We had good and bad days. In 2011, I teamed up with a great partner, and we decided to focus on New York and now, almost 10 years of Cityfox and over 250 events later I feel we accomplished bringing a great concept to an amazing city and we’re always pushing ourselves to explore new ways of producing events.
We founded Reynard Productions in 2013 and beside Cityfox, we produce exciting new projects like The Brooklyn Mirage. We're already working on some crazy new ideas. So, really, gastronomy is in my blood and that’s where I’m coming from."
Marc: "My background was big civic architecture and have designed and worked on large scale projects such as the Tor Tre Teste (Jubilee Church) in Rome, the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome, the Jean Arp Museum in Rolandseck, all under the Richard Meier camp. After my tenure at Meier, I ventured off on my own and found myself emerged in the hospitality industry. It was an area that I was interested in applying my intimate experience in programming large public spaces and creating an efficient flow through an experiential space, an area which I felt was lacking in its current state. I quickly climbed the ranks in NYC, Miami, and Las Vegas working with such operators as Marquee (Strategic Group), The Butter Group, Mark Baker, Angle Music, Chatwall Hotels, Revel Resorts, Gerber Group, etc.
The last big project that gained international praise is Hakkasan in Las Vegas. It comprised of a ground up-build, the 75,000 square foot space was programmed with their flagship restaurant and the introduction of the first Hakkasan superclub and lounge. This project has led me to work internationally and currently, I’m developing multiple projects in India which will reshape the future of the Indian hospitality market. In addition to India, I’ve been commissioned with projects in Jakarta, Singapore and Abu Dabi. All of which will be a combination of restaurant and nightclub programs."
How did you both first meet each other?
Marc: "I met Billy about 2 years ago through a network of friends in Brooklyn. I knew of Billy and his group through the industry and was glad to have become friends with someone that shared the same passion and sometimes madness for what we both do. I think it was only time till we collaborated on something and this was perfect timing."
Billy: "Exactly, a friend introduced us. We eventually ended up having drinks and a pretty long conversation about our version of a perfect nightclub, our let’s say “nightlife philosophies” and realized we’re on the same page. The guest is always our center of attention, in all our projects. Creating an experience is all what matters. I think Marc was a regular guest at our parties and he was impressed by our approach of always creating something new, investing so much time and energy into one single night or “pop-up-project“, and I was more than impressed when I saw his portfolio."
How did your first collaboration come about? Tell us about the first project.
Marc: "Well it was a long courting process. As I got to know and experience what Billy was doing and was looking to achieve, the more interested I became in his direction. Having grown up in the club scene of New York, I’ve seen the nightlife landscape change from the vibrancy, the escape and in some cases the theatre of this industry to later becoming a component that quickly changed that scene into what ultimately led to the dilution of the industry with bottle service clubs. I felt for a long time that there needs to be a massive shift in the way nightlife was programmed in New York City in order to bring back that richness and quality that redefined a true immersive experience. The Mirage project did that in the fact that it's combining all of the elements of something new and fresh. We defined a new semantic in the way we would curate the spatial experience. There was the semiotics that were created and told and the phenomenal aspect of all the finishing components that co-mingled with one another beautifully. It was part of the primer to really craft a “HOLISTIC“ experience."
Billy: "The Brooklyn Mirage was a very time-sensitive project, we literally had 7 weeks to plan, design the space and open its doors, which is pretty crazy. I realized i need help and approached Marc. He probably had 5 or 6 projects all around the globe on his plate already, but said: “Sure, let’s do it." That’s what amazes me most about him - he is always relaxed and cool - really my role model at the moment. I think I can learn something from him and that’s the most important part - the creative exchange in a collaboration like this really brings you to the next level, hard to reach that alone."
Walk us through the collaborative process on building the Brooklyn Mirage? What kind of role did each of you play in both the development and execution phase of the project?
Marc: "It was really a great collaborative effort and very different from any client relationships I’ve ever had. Billy had a very particular vision in his mind and it was my job to make that come to life and throughout the process an open dialogue was developed as the space to form everything from the design of the pattern and how the visual artist would then interact with those components. It was an open think tank which we both contributed to define the entire design of the space, we looked at different camera angles and point of views to in essence capture what would feel accidental and not contrived. The execution was an absolute renegade process as it was a design build project. We did a broad stroke and during construction we started to refine the details and the space as it went up."
Considering the difficulties that come with building something like The Brooklyn Mirage, have you ever built something like this before? What were some of the unique challenges that The Brooklyn Mirage presented to you that you never faced before?
Marc: "Never at this scale and timeframe. We essentially designed and built a working night club/event space in a 3-week window. The true challenge was making sure the built product matched the designed product. In many cases, especially with longer timeframes, the initial vision gets diluted due to time and budget constraints. This project was the exception. We had what I would normally never take on… a truncated timetable partnered with a bit of experimental construction whilst maintaining code compliancy and life safety codes. We also had the visual artists that were working in parallel with us on the space so we really did have to all work with the same model and end product so everything converged properly in the end."
Billy: "The Brooklyn Mirage is definitely the biggest project so far for me, only comparable to the nightclub we built in Zurich. Crazy thing is that we built the Mirage in two weeks' production time, since we had the pressure of opening the doors on July 4th. That was the main challenge - time. But our team managed to do it and I think even Marc and I were pretty impressed every day we came back on site. Our team worked 24 hours with up to 100 people per day. Another challenge was to work with the limitations of materials, we even had to buy custom made massive steel beams to build the towers, but really finishing the job in time was the main mission."
When you were conceptualizing the Brooklyn Mirage how much of it became a reality and how much of it is still a mirage (fantasy)?
Billy: "We built pretty much everything and more than I thought of in the initial idea of building an oasis in the industrial wasteland of East Williamsburg / Bushwick (Brooklyn, NY.) As Marc said, throughout the process we added a lot of details and we had a great production team, they brought some amazing ideas into the project."
You have both worked with other people in the industry to accomplish big things, what makes working with one another so unique?
Marc: "It’s simple. I believe we share a similar point of view, we’re both a bit mad in our expectations and there is a common respect for what we both do and for what we can bring to the table."
Billy: "It’s really hit or miss. Sometimes I can be really hard to collaborate with someone if we’re not on the same page. With Marc, I had a good feeling right away and we both listen to each other. We can agree on the better idea, no matter if it’s his or my own. We both don’t have too big of egos I think, but we’re both perfectionists and we try to accomplish the best result possible."
Are you both working on any future projects together? What is in lined up for the future that we can anticipate and get excited about?
Marc: "There is definitely a future ahead as I’m developing emerging markets that are in its infancy in terms of design, hospitality, events and music. My plan is to engage Billy’s expertise in a few of my projects abroad. Along with other projects that are in discussion, I think we only scratched the surface for what we can do in the future but the details are up to Billy to divulge."
Billy: "Definitely :) But these projects are in baby shoes still, too early to release any details about it. What I can say since we hang out more often together, we had some mad ideas, and i’m pretty sure that some of it will become reality."
The Mirage has certainly become an incredible project to take on and overcome, with that being said what kind of direction do you realistically see Reynard Productions going in future?
Billy: "I think one direction Reynard Production will go into is festival production. I strongly feel like we need a sophisticated electronic music festival in New York. We are working on it and it gets real exciting just thinking about it."
July 4, 2015 at The Brooklyn Mirage: Tale of Us, M.A.N.D.Y & More
We return to The Brooklyn Mirage on July 25th for Dixon & Âme of Innervisions, Solar, Camea, Naveen G and Taimur Agha: http://bit.ly/DixonFBJuly 4th with Tale of Us, M.A.N.D.Y., Behrouz, Patlac, Canson, Bedouin, Justin Marchacos, Dory and Deep Jesus. Visuals by Projektil, lighting by Oxygen Eventworks and sound by KV2 Audio.Track: Bedouin - Hologram, coming soon on CityfoxVideo: Gregory Pescia Cameras: Anson Marsh (handheld), Berge Parigian (drone), Keala Evans (glidecam), Aram Sun (handheld)
Posted by The Cityfox Experience on Thursday, July 23, 2015
Photo credits: Evie Cheug and Keala Evans