Design Hungry

Have you experienced a strange sense of déjà vu while dining overseas in recent years?

From smashed avo brunches in Paris to third wave coffee joints in Shanghai, Australia’s greatest culinary hits are popping up on menus worldwide. But cuisine isn’t our only rising cultural export. Whether at home or abroad, Aussie architects and designers are setting the tone for the places where we love to linger, with the relaxed sophistication that has become synonymous with our food scene.

Cassie Hansen, editor of Artichoke Magazine, was joined by Mark Simpson of DesignOffice, Iva Foschia of IF Architecture, and Stuart Krelle of Luchetti Krelle, on a riveting panel at DENFAIR 2019. The wide-ranging discussion touched on the growing influence of Australian hospitality design, Melbourne and Sydney’s differing food cultures, the intricacies of working with both long term and overseas clients, and their thoughts on design and social media.

Sink your teeth into some of the conversation’s meatier snippets below, before diving into a full video of the talk.


“The public has had this passion and interest in the last decade or so – with the food boom, they take things much more seriously, they’re much more interested in the produce and level of dining they’re experiencing. And because the standard is so good, I think that expectation keeps getting raised. So that also puts a certain expectation and pressure on you guys to create spaces that match up to that.”


“Australians generally don’t like to look too ‘show off-y’. Even if they’re going out to have a really beautiful meal at quite a high price, they like that space to feel relaxed and comfortable – that it could be for anyone, and you could turn up in jeans. And I think that’s quite different to European examples. The formality of places in Europe – it’s 100 times more formal than a similar offer here in Australia with white tablecloths, et cetera. Here, you can go to the best restaurants in the country without any tablecloths at all.”

“We design spaces that are there to fundamentally support the food and beverage offer. That’s how I see it. The design is subservient to that. It’s part of the whole, but it’s not the hero.”

“Our client Andrew [McConnell, chef and restaurateur at Supernormal, Cutler & Co., and Cumulus] said to us that 10 years ago, being a professional hospitality person, or waiter, wasn’t even a consideration. So now that that profession is taken very seriously, the Front of House has driven the design outcomes as well. Which is probably quite new for us in such a young country, whereas those traditions are embedded overseas.”


“Most of our clients don’t want to talk about other people’s spaces. We try and stay away from Pinterest anyway, but they don’t come with preconceived ideas. I don’t know what it is. I think maybe it’s our reputation in lifestyle, food and drink, Australia has a really strong reputation globally. So there seems to be a confidence to do something and go with it, without needing to be referential, or be reassured by something that already exists.”

“When you look at other places in the world, I still don’t think anywhere does high-end casual like Australia. This idea of doing something at a really high level that isn’t cheap, but in a really casual way, that actually feels quite relaxed and is about how you feel, as opposed to being formal.”


“There’s a great energy to see that [in Australia] we’re not shackled to the past, it’s really just something that’s kicking on. And we’re just getting better, smarter and more sophisticated in everything – be it in service, or in the actual approach to design.”

“Hospitality is emotive. And I think that’s all you’re trying to get out of a solid brief from a client, is trying to understand what they actually want the patron to feel and experience.”