Some 500 New Yorkers knew they were going to a party in Manhattan, they just didn't know where. Two architecture firms knew they were going to battle it out, but they didn't know what they'd be designing.
The source of the mystery was the second LVHRD Master-Disaster Architect Duel, which pitted two firms in a build-off, while artsy types, who had been text messaged the location of the event only a few hours earlier, gathered to sip drinks, mingle and observe in the Canal Room, a sleek downtown club where celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and Mariah Carey have been sighted.
LVHRD (pronounced "live hard") describes itself as "part private club, part flashmob, part creative salon, part social experiment," but also involves a heavy component of networking among "creative" industries like fashion or graphic design.
In 18 months, it has grown from about 100 members to a network of 2,000, who are — in signature LVHRD style — faxed e-mail rants from the heard-but-never-seen founder Beauregard H. Montgomery that provide inspiration for the twice-a-month events, that are then hosted by brand management firm The Happy Corp.
Confused yet? Happy Corp. founder Doug Jaeger said the mystery is part of the fun.
"If I don't know where something is until three hours before, it's guaranteed to be exciting," he said, wearing a costume of a chef's hat and coat, a long, white wig and white face paint. "We kept it secret at first so it's not too popular and can be experimental."
Baruch Levy, 30, a hedge fund analyst who lives in Manhattan, likes the secrecy of the gatherings, which in the past have included hipster-goes-mainstream events such as models competing against scientists in a trivia competition or fashion designers facing off a la "Project Runway."
Take a video tour of the duel.
Check out photos and learn more about the architects.
"As embarrassing as it sounds, that keeps it pure," Levy said. "I stood in line for a half an hour to get in here, and I don't stand in line for halves an hour."
Tuesday night's battle billed itself as the traditional "big guy vs. little guy" match-up. Grzywinski Pons Architects, a young firm founded in 2002 who designed the Hotel on Rivington in the increasingly trendy Lower East Side of New York, went head-to-head with two architects from Arquitectonica, a 400-member firm that has regional offices in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Arquitectonica didn't shirk its Goliath reputation. Before the competition, architect Daniel Colvard said he was working on a 5 million-square-foot project in Seoul, South Korea.
"That's roughly 1,000 times the size of the Hotel on Rivington," he said with a smirk.
In dramatic fashion, the hosts announced that the competition was to be held in 2056, when the earth has been flooded by global warming, but there was no time to build retaining walls around metropolitan areas. The teams must build a model of a massive entertainment center that floats on water, is mobile and can house artists.