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A rustic hen house comes to Wembley

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Restaurant facade as framed painting, tables as Scarpaesque lecterns, walls as display cases - unlikely items to find on Wembley High Street in North London. The architect at O’Galinheiro was Avci+Jurca, (see page 48); Selcuk Avci is also a partner in Avci+Brawne Architects and has worked on museum, exhibition and university projects with Michael Brawne over the past ten years. Avci’s experience of museums and Jurca’s background in theatre set design are much in evidence at O’Galinheiro. (The name means ‘hen house’ and the restaurant specialises in Piri-Piri, a chilli- based method of marinading and cooking chicken developed by Portuguese seafaring explorers in the fifteenth century.)


The other dominating influence at O’Galinheiro is the Portuguese connection, personified by the proprietor who insisted on a strong Portuguese image to attract Portuguese customers. He also wanted a brand image that could be adapted to represent possible future ventures - a chain of Piri Piri restaurants and a fast food service are under consideration. The Portuguese national colours - green, red, yellow - and a strong ‘rustic feel’ were therefore non-negotiable requirements of an otherwise open brief. Avci and Jurca promised they would ‘use materials and colours that would reflect the national flag of Portugal but without being too literal’.


The desired ‘rustic feel’ is established as soon as you set foot inside the restaurant by the floor tiles (Spanish), painted with a water-based red dye, sealed with wax and widely spaced with fat bands of grouting. More subtle is the use of chunky birch-ply joinery - the ‘chunkiness’ an illusion achieved by solid ply sectional edgings (6mm surface glued to an 18mm edge strip). This is used on suspended ceiling panels, table tops and the notched side counter which enables people to sit facing each other, rather than presenting their backs to the rest of the space.


The two main walls play the rustic game in very different ways: the timber wall to the left is clad in plywood panels, treated with fire-retardant varnish and inset with illuminated timber display boxes which hold unusual pots bought in Portugal by the proprietor. The opposite wall is the antithesis of this blond Scandinavian approach: the plaster base has been painted by the artist Christine Rebet in layer upon layer of differing colours and textures to arrive at an intense, very Portuguese, green. Slotted into the wall at random are backlit vertical glass containers filled with dried chillies. Wall as ‘art installation with chillies’ is the architect’s sophisticated interpretation of the traditional dust-collecting bunches of dangling dried or fake fruit and veg in dated folksy restaurants.


Avci+Jurca also designed the tables for O’Galinheiro. A cruciform metal section forms the single upright, folded into a key pattern foot at the bottom. Unfortunately, the table top proved slightly top-heavy and a metal plate had to be added to the original base for stability. This defect will be corrected when future versions are made.


The glass facade of O’Galinheiro is framed externally in a broad iroko border which separates the glowing interior from its high street surroundings. The architect had a vision and an enlightened client shared it. An unusual state of affairs.






Piri Piri Restaurants: Francisco Caixeiro




Avci+Jurca: Selcuk Avci, Sanja Jurca, Zulal Erbas








Avci+Jurca with Fan Weming




Christine Rebet




Francisco Caixeiro




joiner Tony Diogo, electrics Carlos Duarte, terracotta tiling/plastering Armando, metalwork/tables mec Engineering, shopfront Spectrum Joinery, bar stools The Lyra by Magis, glass chilli containers Rankin Glass, chilli peppers Cool Chile Company, terracotta tiles Farmhouse Traditional Tiles, lights Reggiani

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