Australian studio Alexander & Co has recently transformed a stark, voluminous, glass box within a new landmark tower in Sydney into a warm 220 seat regional Italian-inspired restaurant. Influenced by the client’s love of all things Italian, Glorietta has been designed to feature an array of inviting materials – a complete contrast to its “cold and commercial” structural shell, which had been dominated by glass surfaces.
“The owner had ambitious plans for a new Italian inspired Sydney restaurant and bar: it must be a catalyst for change, inspiring hospitality offerings into a corporate area previously lacking any,” explains the studio. “Contemporary yet classic, it must be a ‘come for a drink, stay for a meal kinda place’ and create a warm agricultural ancestry and tone, all within the building’s pre-established constraints.”
The client was keen to deconstruct the vast, open, and commercial space into separate, more intimate zones to encourage various functionalities and dining options. A key challenge presented itself in the form of the space being void of any existing character; to counterbalance this, zoning was achieved by applying a range of floor treatments to contain each space.
From polished concrete around the bar and northern dining areas to timber boards in the central dining space and concrete slabs surrounding the kitchen, each variation in materials helped to distinguish the separate zones – as well as build personality and interest. The large scale, volume, view, and elevated floor area also became advantages to creating theatre and spatial uniqueness throughout the venue.
In support of this, the clever use of five different seating options further established each zone. From the high timber tables and stools at the bar, long communal tables and the built-in olive-green leather banquettes, rust-red-toned tables, and individual bentwood chairs. Varied seating options offer intimacy and choice depending on patrons dining and drinking needs.
A visible, traditional pizza oven and open kitchen capture the energy of a classic Italian restaurant and the theatrics that accompany this. A dining counter and bar ribbon the entry – which not only frames the entry but adds to the atmosphere and visual intrigue. A central bar was strategically positioned for maximum street visibility and to contain the venue’s footprint, scale, and proportion.
An earthy, organic, and warm palette was achieved via the careful selection of contemporary, yet durable, furnishings and fittings. Tonally gentle design elements soften the space. Recycled timber, olive and apricot leathers and tiling, rust-red tables, brass, creams, and wheat-colored linen curtains encircle the venue, while a vaulted rattan ‘cloudscape’ obscures the impact of the silver ceiling panels and offers yet another layer of warmth and natural texture to the space.
Glorietta’s narrative is one of soft agricultural nostalgia that seamlessly enhances the otherwise hard-edged commercial volume. The innovative transformation of Glorietta from an amorphous commercial venue, into an intimate restaurant now appeals to the afternoon spritz seekers, late-night dinners, and the casual pizza crowd.
Glorietta plays an important role in acting as a cultural reference point for the business precinct it resides in, encouraging other businesses into the area and further activating the surrounding locale.
Due to Glorietta’s elevated position, civic scale, and commercial character, the buildings tenancy had no sympathetically inherent texture or softness, no history, and no context on which to draw the design concept from. Faced with a blank canvas and multiple challenges in building an inviting, friendly intimacy and warmth, the team set about crafting a design beneficial to patrons, floor staff, and the wider local community.
Elements such as the bar, which ribbons either side of the entry, were purposefully positioned and hugely beneficial in attracting street traffic and space activation, building room density, and in containing both footprint and scale. While the inclusion of other key elements such as a traditional pizza oven, open kitchen and dining counter all gave the framework to build a lively environment and the ability to incorporate separate zones.
In terms of beauty and aesthetics, Glorietta was softened with tonally gentle materials and color palettes. Timbers, olive-hued leathers and tiles, rattan banquette with apricot tones, rusty red tables, brass, cream render and paint, and cream linens covering the windows are all evidence of a beautiful and considered space.
Sustainability played an important role too, materials were kept to a minimum, all-natural, designed for longevity, and sustainably harvested where possible. An ingenious, vaulted ‘cloud sky’ of woven rattan covers the majority of the ceiling, providing additional warmth and organic shape while enclosing the whole restaurant by lowering the room-scale and warming the lighting. Rattan is one of the fastest renewable tropical woods available and is manufactured in low-tech non-polluting facilities.
Within Glorietta, beauty and sustainability collide with the salvaging and application of materials. Reclaimed hardwoods feature as bar cladding, with old stone slabs salvaged by the builder used as kitchen surround flooring. In a final, decorative flourish, a round Art Deco-inspired family table with sentimental value was inserted as a corner feature.
In an innovative sense, Glorietta’s story is a social one that highlights the effectiveness of combining clever interior design practices within a venue’s surrounding context.
Glorietta is a lively and inviting hospitality space that will generate a ripple effect in driving other dining and drinking venues into the area to ensure ample social and commercial benefits for the local community. This outcome of connecting with the community and reinvigorating the Australian hospitality industry is particularly important during these uncertain times.