The project began with an existing concrete shell tenancy which was to be transformed into a warm and inviting dining and drinking venue with flexible spaces. Material selections were made as an anti-response to other Southbank venues, with a direct intention of surprising adjacency, and an attempt to achieve a disquieting balance: i.e. raw against refined, warm against cold, familiar against unfamiliar. A large part of achieving this was by using recycled antique oak parquetry in herringbone pattern to convey warmth, texture, contrast with other materials, create points of interest and help to define and breakdown the various areas within the previously large and empty space.
The antique Oak Parquetry was sourced as a largely ‘unrefined’ material, which had seen many different treatments applied since its first installation some 200 years prior: paint finishes, grit applications, and heavy varnishing. This was part of the appeal of using this product: to allow a richness of texture and character and the story behind the material to be told. However, a level of refinement to the material had to be achieved which did not exist in the state it was received.
The parquetry was regauged for even installation, and lightly sanded back to remove layers of the abused surface bit by bit without destroying the patina. This took a great amount of care from experienced carpenters, and once the desired finish was achieved the timber was sealed with whittle wax, giving the installation a feel of craftsmanship and delicacy.
The design uses the parquetry in unconventional ways: as soffits, wall linings, bar fronts and joinery items – reinterpreting in innovative ways the use of this traditional flooring material to create warm and inviting spaces that tell a story through the parquetry. The character of the oak gives the space a feeling of being long established, and permanence, while evoking interest through creative use in the design.