Inspired by the client’s love of all things Italian, Glorietta in Australia is a bar and 220-seat restaurant designed to shape a corporate precinct into a Eurocentric agricultural memory. Glorietta involved the challenging transformation of a stark, voluminous, glass box within a new landmark tower; void of history and restricted by poor street visibility. Sydney-based design firm Alexander &CO took up this challenge and created a contemporary place with relaxed vibes.

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. 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.

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-coloured​ 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.

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.

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.

Photo credit: Anson Smart