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BizBash: Event Report Travel Makes Over Popular Venue as Oasis

  • July 14, 2005
  • |
  • Posted By Justin @ 12:36 PM

Travel & Leisure's World's Best awards party
Thursday, 07.14.05, 7:30 PM to 10:30 PM

How to make a popular venue feel fresh? Try the back door. That's how Travel & Leisure added a little mystery to Skylight, the large raw space that has hosted high-profile events for Domino, Dolce & Gabbana, and Dom Perignon recently. Creative projects director Laura Aviva sent invitations for the magazine's World's Best awards giving only the rear address, 30 Renwick Street—not the venue's name or regular Hudson Street address—and gave it a stylish makeover fitting its travel-minded host.

When guests arrived on shabby Renwick—which typically has more construction and trash bins than cachet—past a metal cyclone fence, they found rows of palm trees rising like an oasis from a stone and gravel path leading to the party. The trees came from Florida through Chris King of Foliage, and the gravel had arrived the day before to spruce up what is normally a loading dock and small parking lot (which can double as a terrace for parties).

That unique entrance made for a dramatic introduction to the venue's giant main space, where Aviva and designer Dean Christopher painted sections of the walls blue and brought in custom furniture for a unique feel. The scheme worked so well, Aviva said one publicist whose firm (his name is on the door) has hosted multiple events there had to be told it was the same venue.

(Now, we realize Skylight opened this past September, meaning it's not really that old, but media types can be acutely aware of who used which place when—one frequent party guest who wasn't fooled commented to us that Skylight is this year's Splashlight Studios, which saw a rash of magazine and fashion parties after it opened in 2002. Cattiness aside, both are great spaces.)

In the main space, the party had plenty of Caribbean touches, but a decidedly urban feel. The venue's super-high ceilings allowed plenty of room for stiltwalkers from Brooklyn Jumbies and more palm trees. Olivier Cheng served coconut-crusted shrimp with tamarind dipping sauce, and lobster and mango skewers with spicy vanilla sauce. In the long hall behind the main space—er, in front of it, normally—hung cube-shaped lamps with photos from the magazine and the names of its 32 award winners, making for a striking design element and an unexpected display. "It seemed really obvious to do a gallery on the wall," Aviva said.

Among Aviva's other tricks—and she's big on production tricks, like building platforms over a pool in Lincoln Center for last year's awards—were custom-made wall dividers with built-in seating and aquariums filled with tropical fish. Designer Justin Muir from City Aquarium (he did the Coral Room) built tanks filled with a total of 60 fish and 500 to 600 gallons of water. Using saltwater fish made for a challenge: adjusting the chemicals can be tricky, and his usual, permanent designs can take 30 days to set up. The event's fish only arrived from California that morning via FedEx ("in bags like you win at the fair," Aviva said), and were in the tanks by the afternoon. But not to worry: no fish were harmed in the production of this event, Muir assured us.

—Chad Kaydo

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