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Clubs, pubs and the burbs: Cayas Architects’ on community-building hospitality

It may surprise some hipster urbanites, but hospitality design is helping re-shape our suburbs. Paul McGillick meets up with Con Cayas and Jeremy Ward at their Kelvin Grove studio in Brisbane.

(L-R) Jeremy Ward, partner, and Con Cayas, director. Photo by Emma Nevison.

(L-R) Jeremy Ward, partner, and Con Cayas, director. Photo by Emma Nevison.

Con Cayas and Jeremy Ward’s business is 85-90 per cent hospitality. And that’s the way they like it – because it’s their passion.

Con gave Jeremy his first job when he was still studying architecture at QUT. Now they’re partners in CAYAS Architects, founded by Con in 2009 doing pubs, clubs, bars and small restaurants. According to Con, he just fell into it, initially working for a firm which is now their major competitor. “One of the beauties of hospitality,” he says, “is the constant evolution. The expectations of the clients and customers are constantly changing. The advantage is that we work on clubs and once you get a relationship with them you stay with them. The benefit is the recurring work. Similarly with pubs.”

Cayas Architects own office.

Cayas Architects own office.

It’s the constant change which also excites Jeremy. After designing apartments for five years – “at the end of the day there are only so many ways you can design a two-bedroom apartment” – he joined Con because, “It became clear that there’s a big difference in terms of what you choose to spend time in with what you get out of it personally. From a professional point of view, I realised I could get a lot more satisfaction in hospitality. It’s constantly evolving. We can test and create new ideas every day.”

“We don’t push ourselves to have a distinct style,” adds Con, “because we don’t want Club A to look like Club B. But we’re constantly challenging ourselves and our staff to reinvent and try new ideas.”

Detail from Surfair Beach hotel.

Detail from Surfair Beach hotel.

“There are certain expectations when you walk into a club or pub,” Con continues. “You know you’re going to find a bar, some food, toilets and gaming. But we also want it to have an element of surprise. So we are constantly trying to think of ideas. It’s challenging, but a challenge we embrace and enjoy.”

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“We’re constantly challenging ourselves and our staff to reinvent and try new ideas.” – Con Cayas
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He points out that clubs, while they are certainly demographically driven, have to be inclusive – in fact, they are becoming more and more like community centres. It’s not like some city bars, says Con, where you feel uncomfortable because you’re not dressed in a certain way.

Surfair Beach Hotel bar.

Surfair Beach Hotel bar.

“Hospitality is not just about a good look,” Jeremy points out. “It’s not about a hero shot. It’s about how you feel in a space – the experience.”

Clubs and pubs did struggle for a time. Partly because of new competition from online gambling and shopping centres positioning themselves as all-day destinations, but also because they put too much emphasis on gaming at the expense of community.

Hence, says Con, “We’re looking at clubs becoming micro-cities and micro-entertainment venues. They can’t just be gaming, drinking and dining. They’re becoming complexes now. We now have clubs asking: What can we offer that the other clubs aren’t? They can see now there’s an opportunity to make money out of all the parts, not just gaming, although that will always be the bigger money-spinner.”

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“Hospitality is not just about a good look. It’s not about a hero shot. It’s about how you feel in a space – the experience.” – Jeremy Ward
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Con and Jeremy point out that the amenity offered by clubs is expanding – gyms, yoga, swimming pools and being more family friendly. The trend is towards more micro-precincts within the club with a diversity of entertainment offerings. 

Dog and Parrot Tavern.

Dog & Parrot Tavern, photo by Jeremy Ward.

In fact, clubs themselves are trending towards becoming just a part of an even bigger complex. Some have even been integrated into retirement villages and, says Con, “clubs have been getting enquiries from developers where there is an existing club on a great site where they could build 15 or 20 storeys of apartments.”

“The patrons’ expectations of the quality of design is much higher than it used to be,” he says, “and that’s pushing us and our clients to make quality design both externally and internally.”

Photography by Toby Scott unless otherwise stated.

Not hospitality, but borrowing heavily from its design cues, take a look at this workplace project by Siren Design.


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