Anthony Gill – Hospitality Design and Detail

Young partitioning architect Anthony Gill, presented the last talk for the Interior Spatial Design Lecture Series. Gill’s Sydney-based firm, Anthony Gill Architects, was established in 2007 and consists of himself and two others. The firm works on residential, hospitality, retail and commercial projects with careful attention to functionality and materiality. He spoke about three of their projects, which were fit-outs of two restaurant/bars ‘Vini’ and ‘Berta’ as well as his old apartment in Potts Point.

Vini is located in Surry Hills and started off as a small restaurant, but gradually expanded by utilising the loading dock space and then extended into the shop space next to it. For Vini, the focus of the design is the product of wine, which was achieved through the insertion of the ‘working wall.’ Constructed from form-ply joinery, this wall of shelving solves many of the design issues for this space. Firstly, it provides a level of separation, creating a clearly defined kitchen area. The small kitchen extends out on one side of the wall, while the bar is positioned in front. The working wall provides ample storage for food and wine, which is easily accessed by staff, as there are no cupboard doors to open. It also displays the wine, so that customers can view the range of products. “The concept was to create a working wall of wine and food that would be active throughout service.” The result is an interactive and functional experience with wine.

The small budget was a major constraint that Gill and his team had to consider. For this reason, the space was mainly made from form-ply, which is a relatively cheap material. Sheets of form-ply were stacked to create the bar, then continued through to the shelving. The matte black surface of this material complements the blackboard in the restaurant, which is an integral feature to the client’s concept for the space. The menu on the blackboard is constantly changing, adding to the theatre of the space. In contrast to the matte black, the wood edge of the form ply brings warmth back into the space.

The loading dock area of the restaurant contained exposed services that couldn’t be easily moved or disguised, so Gill created a room within a room by inserting a shipping container into the loading dock. The container was then fully lined in birch plywood, inverting the materiality of the main restaurant space. This overcame the issue by allowing all the existing services to remain and creating a different atmosphere to the rest of the space.

The next project described by Gill was another restaurant/bar named Berta, located off a small laneway in Surry Hills. This was by the same client as Vini and followed a similar concept. This space also dealt with issues of limited space and budget, and so the idea of the “working wall” was employed once again. Gill believes “Its not about the surfaces, its about the space,” meaning a generosity of space and focus on function is more important than using expensive materials. He carefully chooses materials according to the budget and the materiality and in this case, used woven metal mesh to construct the working wall. The shelves begin just inside the entrance, leading customers through to the main area and connect with the kitchen. The kitchen is open and set back behind the marble-topped bar and its counter seating. Bar tables to seat two to three people form the divider between this space and the main dining area. The externally framed windows open up the small space, looking out onto the back laneway, which also forms a connection with the context of the restaurant.

The final project that Gill showed us was his old apartment in Potts Point. Once again, he used the concept of the working wall to combat constraints of budget and a small amount of space. The space was a 38 square metre, one bedroom apartment in a Harry Siedler building which required to be redesigned to be suitable for Gills wife and young daughter. The wall running parallel through the centre of the apartment was removed, leaving only the masonry walls to the bathroom. A working wall was then inserted along the length of the apartment, which acted as a room divider between the living space and the kitchen/bathroom/child’s room. This joinery addition re-configured the space by creating privacy for each area as well as providing much needed storage space. The shelving is used to store pots and pans required near the kitchen area, books, games and documents. A wardrobe and slide out bed was custom built into the unit to maximize the living space. Gill used form ply and birch ply to save costs and achieve a clean, modern look. He noted that the most important criteria for this project was that it is a lived in space and therefore a generosity of space and storage was required.

Overall, Anthony Gill was one of my favourite lectures because I was impressed how he used such simple, logical solutions to the constraints of budget and limited space through the effective use of joinery and materiality. He was able to come up with the concept of a working wall which can be used for division, privacy, storage and for display and apply this to three different projects with varying programs. Gill also showed that he had the ability to expand and adapt the spaces as required. For such a young practitioner to be creating these spaces with such rigor, I was very inspired.

Anthony Gill, 2004, ‘Anthony Gill Architects,‘ viewed 23 May 2011 <http://www.gillarchitects.com.au/&gt;

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