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Royal Opera House

Covent Garden, London


The brief was to create an elegant and accessible experience for the thousands of theatregoers who move swiftly through he Paul Hamlyn Hall Restaurant and Balconies Restaurant.

The key element to the design was to include a main bar that could be removed from the space. In addition it was requested that the seating areas and balcony section within the hall was refreshed and updated.

In order to improve the environment we addressed the fixtures and fittings whilst being aware that the overall look and feel remained in keeping with the elegance and grandeur of the hall. We needed to be sympathetic to the existing structure and be aware of the operational requirements of the space. Our job was to create the look and feel of bar, sourcing lightweight but at the same time durable materials.

We had to consider the volume of people that pass through the Royal Opera house. Intermissions are incredibly busy and it was requested that the bar would be large enough to accommodate multiple serving points. The brief also stated the importance of minimal congestion at the bar and so we had to devise a method to draw patrons away from the bar area.

The chosen design sees the Paul Hamlyn Hall hosting a ‘jewel-like’ 13.5m long champagne bar. The bar’s oval shape allows patrons to be served from all sides and food offers are easily visible. Table lamps sit on shelves, creating a more welcoming environment. The wall mirror was extended to the floor, providing a striking addition to the grand room. The final design concept for the bar allows for three different compositions. This means that there are three alternative layout options giving much more flexibility for the varied use of the hall. For internal performances within the Opera House the bar remains one piece placed within the center of the space where customers can approach the bar from all sides. However, when the hall is being used for external events such as private bookings, the bar is broken into sections and placed in different areas of the room. The third option allows the bar to be completely removed and placed in storage to give the full space of the hall. The ability to remove the bar in its entirety added further design issues, as it needed to be specific dimensions in order to fit through the doorways and into the storage rooms.

The space already had a powerful lighting system but we needed to make this more efficient, warm and suitable to different times of day. There are up to 1600 people through the Paul Hamlyn hall in one night and despite having 16 different service points we needed to ensure that there was no congestion at the bar. We used a variety of lighting techniques to draw people to the ‘edges’ of the space after they had been served to assist with customer flow; this helped to avoid overcrowding from people drinking at the bar and encouraged people to explore the whole space.