When TTSP was asked to refurbish the old Barings office at 6-8 Bishopsgate in the City of London, the restaurant was on the ninth floor. Like the rest of the building, it had not been touched since the early 1980s. 'It smelled of old cabbage, ' according to TTSP architect Clive Pereira.
Instead of refurbishing the existing restaurant, the client and architect decided to move it up to the tenth floor and start afresh, freeing the ninth floor for office space. The positioning of the lift on the floor perimeter and the bulky nature of the lift core drove the design concept for the new restaurant. The lift lobby, buried between oversized columns, was a daunting, cavernous space. The challenge, therefore, was to transform the exit from the lifts into a luminous and inviting experience.
The design at this point had to perform two functions: first, to suggest instantly that the restaurant was a place dominated by light; second, to guide staff and visitors as they emerged from the lobby towards the restaurant and its windows with magnificent vistas of the City and south-west London.
Reflections and colour now bombard the area immediately beyond the lobby. As visitors turn right and proceed towards the hub of the plan, the wall to their left is clad in large mirror tiles and pierced by a dramatic elliptical porthole, framed in stainless steel; this porthole provides a beckoning view through the restaurant. The wall to their right is a coloured 'light wall', comprising a series of vertical fluorescent tubes set behind a corrugated semi-opaque plastic screen.
A passive infrared detector picks up movement in the exit from the lift lobby and the fluorescent colours along the light wall start to change colour as visitors move forward, forming a ripple effect that wafts them towards food and conviviality beyond.
The mirror tiles reflect and emphasise this shifting wave of light and colour.
The routes leading to the various eating points are reinforced by ceiling elements.
A 'snake' made of plastic stretched over an MDF frame is suspended above the corridor leading to the breakfast bar, its reflection in the mirror tiles producing a reflected twin snake.
More subliminal in their effect are two canopies: a red horn-shape above the main servery and a kidney-shape above the drinks bar by the porthole. Both canopies mimic the shape of carpeting areas below, which are set into the warm red oak timber flooring, laid in a wave pattern that follows the circulation patterns of the restaurant users.
The restaurant ceiling is exposed concrete; ceiling services are confined to the perimeter, leaving standard pendant lights and the red cable connected to the fire alarm system as the only ceiling features.
The restaurant walls are painted plaster, apart from a second light wall at one end of the main tables area which is programmed to slowly change colour.
With views out to St Paul's, the Lloyd's Building and a large swatch of south London, the restaurant is proving a hit with staff and visitors alike to the offices of 6-8 Bishopsgate - providing a light, colourful and, above all, inviting dining experience.
ARCHITECT TTSP: Mark O'Donnell, Sarah Jane James, Clive Pereira, Stuart Gillman
QUANTITY SURVEYOR Davis, Langdon & Everest M&E
CONSULTANT Cundall Johnston & Partners
PROJECT MANAGER Mace
SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS barrisol ceilings Stretch Ceilings (UK); light walls Jeremy Lord; mirror wall Chelsea Artisans; furniture Gazelle; counters and servery Berkeley Foods