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Reinventing the classic food hall

The David Jones Food Hall at Bondi moves into a new era of hospitality thanks to the recent renovation by Landini Associates.

Australian hospitality design has reached new levels of excellence in recent years. One need only check out the latest round of awards winners to see the genuinely innovative results being produced. Interestingly, there’s a lot more diversity among projects too.

Whereas in the past, the emphasis was on cafés, restaurants and bars, these days the boundaries have been broadened to include other typologies, making for an interesting study in how we currently choose to dine and socialise within public settings.

Landini Associates is one practice progressing this typological shift through reinventions of the traditional fast food outlet, supermarket and food hall. The Sydney-based multi-disciplinary design and architecture firm set the benchmark high seven years ago with its award-winning Loblaws supermarket in Toronto and have upped the ante with the recently completed David Jones Food Hall in Sydney’s Bondi.

It’s a design step forward for the 180-year-old department store and sends a clear message as to the significance of food in today’s customer shopping experience. The new fit-out’s concept is underscored by a much more consultative and far less transactional service approach than the David Jones Food Hall of years’ past.

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“We created multiple worlds – specialist areas as opposed to product specialists.” – Mark Landini
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As Mark Landini, founder and creative director of Landini Associates explains, “We created multiple worlds – specialist areas as opposed to product specialists. So there are not just a butcher selling cuts, but everything you need to cook, spice and finish the meat.”

All onsite manufacturing is exposed, including two Neil Perry-run kitchens that wrap around the escalators and a deli store situated in front of the elevators, with customers entering these ‘worlds’ from the inside of the kitchens or from behind the deli. It’s all about the theatre of food and in creating these immersive micro-environments, Landini ensures customers have a memorable sensory experience.

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Landini ensures customers have a memorable sensory experience.
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Very much part of the food hall’s visual appeal is a raw material palette that’s industrial in aesthetic, providing an unexpectedly neutral backdrop for the mix of different settings and activities. Lighting also plays a significant role in unifying the various zones and while Landini successfully utilises ambient light, he also employs plenty of shadows.

This ‘chiaroscuro’ effect serves to provide a sense of calm and compels customers to slow down. The inclination to linger is what makes this space so attractive. It’s a place for socialising and the large communal tables and plentiful circulation paths encourage this.

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The inclination to linger is what makes this space so attractive.
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The design undeniably feels grounded in a tangible attempt to create an opportunity for interaction and gathering and to this end, Landini looked to traditional produce markets and grocery stores of old for inspiration.

“These spaces are a yin to the yang of the virtual world we live in,” he says. “This is what food has to offer, an everyday place of normality and a connection to the table at which we all still meet.”

Photography by Trevor Mein.

See another reinvention of the market food hall, Wilson & Market by Kestie Lane.

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