A brave Cardiff client has resisted the invasion of themed pubs by commissioning architect Austin-Smith: Lord to design a very different type of bar and restaurant in the city centre. Scott's, at 39 Windsor Place, has a sophisticated image more in keeping with Cardiff's growing importance as a prime European location than are the pseudo-Celtic boozers currently mushrooming around the globe.
Scott's occupies the basement (now the kitchen), ground and first floor of a four-storey 1950s concrete-frame building, formerly the Royal Insurance Office. The main challenge for the architect was to break up the existing large volume into a mix of intimate and open spaces by inserting a series of split levels with strong visual connections. A raised seating area on the ground floor and a split-view mezzanine - acting as a theatre balcony - produce the desired intimate scale, while an oval void cut through the first-floor soffit provides the necessary visual link that pulls the various floor levels together. 'The whole point,' says project architect Robert Firth, 'is to make sure people get glimpses of activity on other levels.' But not clear views - the steel banister railing deliberately fractures these glimpses from certain angles and helps create a sense of 'busy-ness' suited to the venue's emerging role as a popular lunchtime haunt for local businesses.
The architectural approach is one of minimalism with knobs on: lots of curves enlivened by bright splashes of cool colours and jagged openings - like the free-form windows in the red doors leading off the entrance lobby. The brushed stainless-steel bar fronts and table tops add to the notion of social whirl, while canopies over each of the bars help draw punters towards the pumps. Even during slack hours, the lighting scheme buoys up the atmosphere: fibre optics, fitted at the base of walls, produce a continually changing lighting programme culminating on the upper floor where they play over a suspended wavy ceiling before coming to rest on the Scott's logo.