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December 13, 2017

Setting the Riverbank’s design standard

As the first major hospitality venture designed to take advantage of its Riverbank location, Home Ground was an opportunity for Studio Gram to set a standard for what’s to come.

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  • Story: Johnny von Einem

In 1987, the space in which CityMag meets with designers Graham Charbonneau and Olivier Martin of Studio Gram, would have been different in two very distinct ways.

Firstly, it would not be the well-designed food hall we currently inhabit, but would be a grungy car park; and secondly, the space would pay almost no mind to the river on the building’s back doorstep.

Through a $397 million investment started in 2010, designed by Woods Bagot, the Convention Centre reoriented itself toward the natural wonder cutting through our city, signalling an incoming renaissance for the Riverbank that is still yet to be realised.

Taking on the design for the ground floor hospitality offering, Home Ground, Graham and Olivier saw a similar opportunity to signal what can and should be achieved in new tenancies, as the slowly dripping tap of investment along the Riverbank opens to a steady flow of potential new venues.

“Being that we’re the first hospitality, food and beverage offering, I think we tried to set a precedent and tried to promote good design,” Olivier says.

“The other operators, when they’re setting up in the new venues and new tenancies, [can] maybe use Home Ground as a starting point or as something that they can look to and say ‘that’s the benchmark now.’ Trying to promote that good design, because a lot of times it can be overlooked and detrimental to venues, I think.”

Neither of the designers overplays what the project is – plainly and simply, it is a food court, but one with considerate design – and given that it will be a prominent food and beverage presence for visitors in town attending events at the Convention Centre, it is important that it leaves an impression.

Three tenancies face the river, Home Ground Bar, Goodbuns Diner and Sage Delicatessen. Inside, the space is divided along the rigorous car park grid into several smaller spaces, with a couple of indoor tenancies on the eastern end currently operating as pop-up spaces intended for a rolling roster of local producers.

In a traditional-style food court, tenancies would be pushed to the outer rim of the room, with dining space strewn throughout the middle. Because each of the businesses work independently of one another, despite all being run by the Adelaide Convention Centre and Adelaide Venue Management, it was necessary to divide the space.

“Typically food courts are wide open. You can sit at a seat at one end and a seat at the other end and you can clearly see across to the people sitting there,” Graham says.

“If you look at the space now… you can see to the other end, but your view is interrupted through these layers and elements we’ve created throughout the space, so if there’s three of us sitting in here and no one else is here, we don’t feel like we’re in the middle of a giant theatre and all alone.”

As is expected of any Gram project, much of the furniture has been designed specifically for the venue, like the long cement table top at each entrance, the tables outside lining the glass edge of the walkway, and the wheeled outdoor tables that Olivier likens to a flat top barbecue.

It is the first project for Gram on the Riverbank, and they look forward to the opportunity to contribute more to the developing precinct.

“I think it’s really exciting for Adelaide to actually finally stop turning its back on the river, and actually turn to face the river, and a lot of that was done through the way the Convention Centre has always operated,” Graham says.

“Even their oldest building, it doesn’t take a genius to look at it and realise it’s facing the river and not facing North Terrace, so I think they were probably catalysts or advocates for the river for a long time.

“I think the next point of interest should be what happens on the other side of Morphett… Whether people are game enough to start building above the train tracks, I think there’s a really nice opportunity to drive the more urban side of the Riverbank into the more Parklands end of the Riverbank, as it moves down to the brewery and things like that.

“I think it’d be really interesting to bring people out of the city too, in that immediate connection to nature in the middle of the city is a pretty nice thing to have. Not a lot of cities have those opportunities.”

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