I spend a lot of my free time and a big chunk of my pay cheque in bars every month. I’ve also spent my fair share of time and money in restaurants over the years, at least enough to now have a firm grasp on what I’d consider a ‘good’ hospitality experience.

Now even though I hate the word ‘ambience’ (I think it’s dramatically overused), it is concise when it comes time to explaining what it is you like about a certain bar or restaurant. For mine, the ambience of a hospitality venue must be familiar, clean, quiet and welcoming, but most of all it should provide a general feeling of refuge.

Being an architecture enthusiast, I also like the building to have a significant influence on the hospitality experience and to play a defining role in the story a venue sells to its customers. The projects featured in this issue do just that, as their designs have significantly influenced the type of service each venue provides, the food and drink it offers, and the customers it attracts.

Take Pink Moon Saloon on page 34 for example. Step inside this tiny timber hut in the middle of Adelaide and you’re experiencing something completely different than you’re likely to anywhere else in the city. Its steep gable volume, exposed trusses and timber-clad everything all deeply influence the ambience of the venue (there’s that word again) and the way it is used– arguably more than the types of craft beer on tap.

Building materials are obviously important as well because their performance and longevity often dictate how a venue is perceived and continues to be perceived. For example, if Pink Moon’s designer hadn’t considered the sound reverberation of the steep gable volumes and added acoustic fabric to the ceiling, the venue might have provided a totally different experience for its customers.

The recycled hardwood timber at Pink Moon is also in beautiful condition and is no doubt a defining part of the building’s look. But it will be interesting to see how it stands up against a few years of constant foot traffic and spillages, and how the venue’s owner maintains it without dramatically affecting business functions. 

The lessons from all the projects and product features in this issue is that while hospitality design is one of the most challenging sectors of the industry in terms of meeting building code, hygiene and safety standards, it can also be the most rewarding.

Hospitality design is perhaps the least conservative of the fields within the industry as clients are often looking for highly imaginative and distinctive designs. But the real key to the lasting success of any venue will be to match that imagination with a thorough understanding about the capability and performance of certain building materials, and to understand the compliance hurdles you’ll have to jump as a result of each design.

Balancing looks, compliance and material performance is integral to ensuring quality in hospitality design. It is also integral to ensuring a lasting and truly defining ambience for a venue.