Bar & Leisure Focus: Go for Green

Customers linger for longer in environments that celebrate the natural world as they feel more at ease when they indulge their innate love for nature

Edited By Toby Maxwell

STUDIES ON THE EFFECTS of biophilic design in hospitality are overwhelmingly positive – according to research by Terrapin Bright Green, in association with Interface and Gensler, it has been shown to increase dwell time in hotel lobbies, encourage positive customer reviews of hospitality venues and increase spending at bars.

The report, ‘Human Spaces 2.0: Biophilic Design in Hospitality’, noted that there is much more at stake than just aesthetics: ‘Biophilic F&B [food and beverage] presents an opportunity not just to enhance the visual guest experience, or the physical design of a restaurant or bar, but to leverage these current trends to create a unique multisensory experience. Smell, sound and even touch can have a meaningful impact to the culinary experience – one that is so often focused entirely on what we see and taste – to provide a holistic guest experience that can set one venue apart from the rest.’

In a similar vein, a study by the Department of Architecture at the University of Indonesia, found that customers stayed longer, and so tended to spend more, at cafés with biophilic elements to their design – meaning that designing in such elements can add real value to a hospitality concept.

Oversized plants can create an impression of an urban jungle, which can be especially effective in busy city environments. Image Credit: Nikolas Koenig

One of the most obvious – and most successful – ways to incorporate biophilic aspects in hospitality settings is through planting – although it needs to be the right plants in the right places. Alessio Nardi, founder of A-nrd studio, is a huge fan of indoor foliage: ‘As a studio we employ lots of greenery and planting into our interiors for many reasons. Firstly, bringing the outdoors in and adding nature into a space has a profound calming effect, especially in a busy city restaurant. Planting can also be a great tool for creating intimacy and privacy in a restaurant space, with oversized planting as an example helping to divide and zone a space in a subtle way.

‘From a conceptual point of view, plants are a great way to create a transportive environment and enhance the ambience and mood of a space. As a studio, we often collaborate with plant experts at Conservatory Archives, briefing them on the interior concept of a site so that they can provide plants that fit with the story of the space. With Darjeeling Express, our recent Indian restaurant design, for example, you wouldn’t expect to see plants that are from a Mediterranean climate. Understanding how planting can work with the design language of a space is a really important part of how we create a successful interior scheme.’

Plants can help to divide a room, providing intimacy and privacy. Image Credit: Ming Tang-Evans

In a similar vein, at The Tokyo EDITION, Toranomon, it was beautiful Asian plant species which were brought together to create a mass of planting around the bar in the double-height lobby and on the sky garden restaurant, where diners and drinkers are seated among more than 500 plants, trees and shrubs of 25 different exotic species including bamboo, Cherry Laurels and Birds of Paradise. Such a degree of planting certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted – it entailed dragging 127 tonnes of fertile soil 23 miles into the heart of the city and then right up to the 38th floor; and then there’s the ongoing commitment necessary from the client to water and care for the plants.

Plants can help to divide a room, providing intimacy and privacy

For Mexican restaurant Cavita, which has two outdoor terraces and a garden of plants hanging in baskets from the ceiling, Camila Rodrigues of COR London faced a different challenge – the London climate. ‘Plants are extremely important to us as a studio,’ she explained. ‘We love including them in our designs, not only for the aesthetic, but also as there is so much research to support that they increase wellbeing and provide a sense of tranquillity in spaces. The ceiling garden plants were all selected in collaboration with Conservatory Archives to soften the ceiling space and create an urban jungle with a loose, organic feel indoors. We wanted the hanging plants to be at various heights to create a layered look with different textures and variegations and loved the impact this created.

More research is being produced that demonstrates that plants increase feelings of wellbeing in people. Image Credit: Tomas Slavik

‘As Cavita is a Mexican restaurant, we wanted to include lush foliage reminiscent of the tropical flora and fauna native to the country. This did include some challenges, as Mexico and London have very different climates. Although we would have loved to include various species of large cacti outdoors, this wasn’t possible for obvious reasons. Instead, we opted for plants suitable for the light and working conditions with strong, deep green colours and large foliage to complement the interior’s pink colour scheme. We also chose low-maintenance plants such as Monstera deliciosa and Strelitzia Nicolai, which are serviced by Conservatory Archives and do not need watering between visits – we know that the key to a successful scheme is robust and hardwearing plants in hospitality!’

Even with the most careful aftercare, not every hospitality project is suitable for natural planting. Architect Jana Schnappel Hamrová was approached to design a scheme for Soul Love Restaurant in Prague, where the owners wanted to refurbish with a bold, eye-catching design with a lot of greenery. She decided to create a jungle effect, but the lack of light in the historic building proved to be insurmountable. ‘In the end the plants had to be artificial,’ she said. ‘We intended to use real ones but all the specialists we talked to told us they would not survive long even if artificial daylight was used.’ She achieved her jungle look using huge canvasses of Amazon rainforests by Czech painter Otto Placht, high-quality artificial and dried plants and a lighting scheme that creates the illusion of sunlight shining through treetops in the jungle.

Where real sunlight isn’t possible, artificial plants and paintings paying homage can be used to mimic the impact of nature

There are options other than plants when it comes to successful biophilic design – many of the wellbeing benefits experienced by customers can be triggered in more subtle (and perhaps easier to maintain) ways, from using natural materials, textures and colours, to creating organic shapes and even simply hearing the sounds of running water, offering plenty of potential for architects and designers to tap into the experiential benefits even on smaller or tighterbudget projects.

The man-made ‘tree’, made of real wood, that spans the ceiling of the Mama Sens restaurant in Paris

For example, at Mama Sens, a new restaurant at Galeries Lafayette in Paris, architecture and design studio AW² provided the biophilic elements by commissioning a wooden ‘tree’ whose elongated branches spread across the ceiling into the four corners of the restaurant, bespoke furnishings made of bamboo and rattan, natural colours and dried herbs set into niches along the walls inspired by ancient troglodyte caves. At The Paradise Now, a new restaurant, bar, bistro and club in Düsseldorf, the natural elements included wicker and rattan furniture and lighting and a marble-look HIMACS bar, while at Kaiju Cantina, in the suburbs of Melbourne, natureinspired murals are the focus.

The man-made ‘tree’, made of real wood, that spans the ceiling of the Mama Sens restaurant in Paris

As Lorraine Francis, former regional director of hospitality interiors at Gensler put it in the introduction to Terrapin Bright Green’s report: ‘Biophilic design can be very powerful in the hospitality industry. A cost-effective way to enhance the guest experience, it can bolster feelings of community while improving wellbeing and health. These principles enable us to not only create a more engaging design experience, but also trigger a deeper affinity to certain brands. The potential is amazing!’

Progressive Media International Limited. Registered Office: 40-42 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8EB, UK.Copyright 2024, All rights reserved.