Detail in Simplicity

Detail in Simplicity / Charles Bettes, Paul Spooner / London, England

Detail In Simplicity

A Proposal for the NMAXU Competition ‘Architecture & Food’ By Spooner & Bettes

Detail in Simplicity

The design is based around an honest, simple use of materials that respond to the brief and the site, to create a thoughtful contemporary proposal.

Design Approach

Spooner and Bettes believe that design should be simple, informed by the brief and put together cleanly using a careful use of materials. It should not distract from the programme and proposed use of the space, in this case eating and drinking with friends and colleagues.

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Rather than elaborate decorations, design intent is expressed using clean lines, a thoughtful composition of materials and their junctions and a careful understanding of the programme. A system of ‘reduction’ is used to eliminate elements that do not improve the space or add anything to the overall design.

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Although the proposals should ‘fade in to the background’, becoming the setting for the actions that take place about them, the inserted elements should have a mass and weight to them, a timeless quality that ensures they become a solid addition to the space that will age alongside the wider environment.

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By using scale, partitions and platforms smaller spaces and areas are created to develop a range of stories and provide a narrative for the space. This range of areas provides the users with ways of occupying the spaces and differing feelings and environments to occupy.

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Seating / Serving / Eating

The small width allowed for in the brief, the veranda proposed difficulties with providing areas to sit and eat, whilst also allowing for movement around and between the tables. We quickly divided the 3-metre space into 4 strips, 2 for sitting, one for eating and another for movement. These strips became our starting point, allowing us to play with heights and planes, creating a sculptural folded piece with spaces above and below rather than on one plane.

authors: Spooner & Bettes


The climate of the area along with the programme detailed in the brief led us to believe a low maintenance and long lasting material, was best, one that is easy to use, form and look after. We required a material that will develop with age, whilst providing a solid and obvious weight to the proposals. On top of this the budget required a cost effective way of developing an interesting addition to the building. We felt concrete was appropriate due to the subtle and beautiful aesthetic associated with is as well as the cost effective nature of the material.

Bar / Veranda / Garden / Pavilions

We felt it was important that the scheme read as whole rather than individual elements and looked to link the various aspects of the brief within our design. Therefore rather than creating a floating platform level we aimed to develop a proposal that linked the bar with the garden, and read as a continuous folding plane becoming the pavilions as well as the veranda. This play of levels develops a story within the scheme and a development of the space and the inherent interest associated with it.



The table layout indicated on our drawings indicates tables spaces for 40 people, with a covered area seating a further 30 people on bench style seating. This is indicative and could have more tabled seating if required. The pavilions / additional garden seating fold up from the concreted garden area and again could be developed to provide more or less seating as required.

Concrete / Planting / Steel

The combination of concrete walls and floors with green walls and planting areas creates a hard wearing proposal that is also softened and creates interesting yet subtle details with the folded concrete areas. Thin grooves cut into the concrete planes reduce the scale of the faces to provide a more textured and human scale to the veranda. Black steel is introduced to maintain the clean aesthetic and forms handrails and stairs treads.


The lighting is positioned so as to maintain the subtle and simple design of the scheme. It is cut into the floor plane of the concrete seating space and lights up the shuttered concrete wall to provide indirect lighting to the seating areas. The covered area has small spotlights that ‘randomly’ light up small areas to transform the space at night whilst maintaining the desired aesthetic. Lighting could be added to the pavilions in the same way.

The veranda accompanies the food and drink and is designed as we feel food should be; simply, honestly and thoughtfully. We hope you enjoy it.

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