Interview: Paul Thrush,
STAC Architecture

Paul Thrush, Director of STAC Architecture. 30 April 2016
STAC Architecture is a young, design-led practice that focuses its energy in the restaurant and bar sector, together with a passion for residential design. Founded by Paul Thrush and David Snaith in 2013. With experience designing new products, interiors and new build houses, every project receives the utmost attention to detail and the result is rigorous and imaginative at every scale.

How do you think great food and great interior design are linked? 

With regards to restaurants, the interior design should speak about the brand, its ethos; as well as set the mood and tone in which to experience the food. We must never forget that people go to the restaurant first and foremost for the food, however if the flavours are complimented by a great atmosphere and experience like no other then word quickly spreads not just about the food but about the restaurant as a destination.

Which areas of the world do you see as the best for new F&B concepts?

London of course! As the melting pot of Europe it has been shaped and influenced by so many different cultures, tastes and ideas. This coupled with the very creative design scene, arguably the best in Europe if not the world, has led to a range of exciting culinary concepts that keep people guessing as to what the next big idea will be. Concepts such as The Fat Duck, Beast, Burger & Lobster, the list goes on.

What has been your most challenging project to date and why?

Every project has unique challenges, some more fun, others more painful. However whether trying to convince conservation officers of putting a 40ft container into a Grade II listed building or pressure impregnating and testing reclaimed timber to satisfy modern fire regulations, all challenges are met with the same unwavering determination to turn it from an idea into reality.

STAC_Nandos Loughton

What challenges are unique to hospitality / food and beverage space design?

In London we are spoiled for choice with an endless supply of great restaurants, all crammed in very close proximity on the high street. This places increased emphasis on the design of the restaurants and it becomes very important for one design to stand out from the rest and to invite the customer in for an experience like no other. Once through the doors the customer then needs to again be given a choice of places to relax and dine, everything from a cozy booth tucked away to window seat for two or a large communal dining table where you can meet people and share experiences as if at a dining table at home.

Where does your inspiration come from?

As a design practice we always start with a concept in mind, this then forms the seed idea from which everything else stems and develops. This evolves from looking at the site/place, clients brief together with STAC’s endless search for innovative design solutions.

To give you an example, we recently designed a Nando’s restaurant in an old Car showroom, one that has been around since the 50’s and was loved by the local community. We wanted to create a space that would embody some of its past whilst looking forward, a place that was unmistakably Nando’s but at the same time had respect for where it was.

Nando's (Loughton) Restaurant & Bar Design Awards shortlist: Fast/ Casual

The interior space responded to its former use by incorporating up-cycled car parts. Bonnets and doors were flattened out and turned into wall cladding and table tops, headlights were repurposed into a large chandelier and and oil drums used to create basins in the WC’s.

STAC_Nandos Loughton

We also looked at African building techniques, something that the brand could identify with and built a large, curved, rammed earth wall built entirely from locally sourced clay from the Thames estuary. This created a textured backdrop to the space whist also providing a sense of place.

How do you define Design Excellence?

It’s all about the details. If the tiniest of details have been considered and carefully executed then you can be sure that this extends to the rest of the project.

Nando's Woking

What do you think will be the most significant design trends in the near future for 
Restaurant & Bar Design? 

There is a rising consciousness about the food we consume, from source to plate. People want to know where it comes from, how it was grown and even more so, how it was cooked. I think the kitchen will become more centre stage, the walls brought down and the theatre of cooking brought to front of house for all to experience.

What has been the biggest benefit to you in winning an award from the 
Restaurant & Bar Design Awards? 

The award came as a surprise given that it was the first time we had entered and that we are a young design practice having only founded the previous year. We were very excited to have been shortlisted but it was an absolute honour to win the award. It just means that we are not alone in our thinking and that all the effort we put into forming a concept and delivering a space like no other is worth it. Winning the award shows us that other professionals within our industry can clearly see the effort and imagination we put into our designs, so being judged by our peers means a lot to us, it also shows our clients that they are investing in some of the best talent in the industry so their trust in us to deliver a great restaurant experience is rewarded.

Images ©

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