By Aaron Greenwood
Inspired by Monte Carlo's iconic Sea Lounge, iKandy is the latest entrant to Dubai's chilled-out lounge bar scene.
Boasting an impressive array of technology including the first commercial installation of Taglight IP65 LED washlights in the Middle East, iKandy sets out to challenge the notion of a traditional outdoor lounge venue in Dubai.
Positioned adjacent to the rooftop pool deck of the city's Shangri-La Hotel, iKandy features an inspired aesthetic design complemented by a discreet sound system and lighting installation.
According to director of food and beverage at Shangri-La Dubai and iKandy project coordinator Sebastien Noat, the sound installation is designed to provide punters with a surround-sound experience that can also handle the rigours of live DJ applications in the case of club nights.
"We have 18 bracketed and wall-mounted 10-inch 250w speakers positioned throughout the venue, which are complemented by Bose subwoofers," he explains. "The installation guarantees an immersive sound experience for our guests, and also ensures we don't need to boost the audio volume too much."
A unique and some may say foolhardy feature of the installation is the use of indoor speakers. Noat explains this decision was not taken lightly.
"The process of selecting a sound system proved far more challenging than we expected," he says. "We trialled about eight different set-ups before we settled on what was arguably the riskiest option.
"However, we considered the decision justified to ensure sound quality was on par with an indoor venue. The sound quality of the outdoor speakers we trialled was mediocre to put it kindly. So we decided against all logical sense to go with an indoor system."
Noat says Dubai's typically humid evenings pose the greatest threat to the speaker array. As a result, club management was installing customised protective covers at the time of press, which Noat says will go some way to safeguarding the system from the elements.
Lebanon-based equipment supplier and systems integrator Triangle Entertainment Services (TES) encountered a host of challenges during the installation process, not least of which was preserving the integrity of the marble-clad pool deck surround.
TES managing director Zahid Elian says the installation of the speaker array posed the greatest challenge and effectively lengthened the installation schedule.
"Protecting the marble plates that wall the venue was a major priority," he says. "The Shangri-La also specifically requested that the speakers not be mounted on tripods, because management didn't think it would fit with the overall aesthetic design of the venue.
"After much consultation, we developed stainless steel brackets to mount the speakers and to protect the wiring. These brackets are essentially more valuable than the speakers themselves."
"The marble plates can only anchor a certain amount of weight before they fail," adds Noat. "It was a real challenge dealing with it. We had to locate a special drill for the job and the whole process delayed the overall installation by around two weeks."
Elian says that preserving the acoustic integrity of the installation was also a primary consideration for his team of technicians.
"The only way we could guarantee decent acoustic quality in an outdoor venue such as this was to mount the speakers high up on the walls, which necessitated the use of these brackets," he claims.
With three resident DJs performing regularly throughout each week, Noat is planning to replace a Denon audio mixing system initially supplied by TES.
"We don't believe the Denon system suits our requirements," says Noat. "We don't have a problem with Denon per se, but our DJs have requested we invest in a Pioneer mixer and turntables, because they're more familiar with that set-up."
One of the most interesting aspects of the iKandy project is the extensive use of a new lighting fixture, which is primarily used in architectural lighting design.
Triangle removed the pool deck's existing fairylight installation and replaced it with a range of pink LED washlights, which are positioned strategically throughout the venue.
The washlights were launched in the US and European markets in January, and iKandy marks the first installation of the lighting system in the Middle East.
In addition to the environmental and power-saving benefits inherent to LED technology, the washlights also boast a minimum lifecycle of three years.
Elian says while the fixture used at iKandy is LED-based, "it's not comparable to other LED products currently available on the market".
"The fixture has a 15-degree opening and it's one of the brightest LED products ever developed," he claims.
While iKandy has managed to create quite a stir on the Dubai social scene since its official opening in May, the oppressive heat of the summer months in the city conspired to temporarily shutdown the venue last month.
Noat says the club is scheduled to reopen at the beginning of October, but this will depend on whether the summer heat drags on into the autumn months.
"When you operate a year-round outdoor venue, the environmental and climatic considerations are of utmost importance," he says. "However, we believe that our strategy of operating at select times during the year will not only safeguard the physical integrity of the venue, but the iKandy concept itself."