The Hell of the North

The décor inside a new Australian bistro gives a nod to a French cycling event.

Hell of the North designed by Melbourne-based architectural firm SMLWRLD

The Paris-Roubaix is a one-day, 260km cycling event in the north of France ridden mostly over bluestone cobbles. It is known as “The Hell of the North” for obvious reasons and might seem to be a peculiar choice for an eatery. However, with Parisian bistro references and plenty of historic Melbourne bluestone available as building material, the new Hell of the North restaurant in Melbourne, Australia has been crafted into – and around – an original 19th century hotel on the threshold of the Fitzroy-Collingwood suburbs.

Melbourne-based architectural firm SMLWRLD, comprised of architect Lucas Chirnside and artist Bianca Looney, worked in close collaboration with clients Adam Ferrante (who established Rose St. Artists’ Market with his brother, Christian) and Mark Grixti (the sommelier at the Melbourne Supper Club & The European cafe) when creating Hell of the North.

SMLWRLD designed the Parisian bistro The Hell of the North

The joint goal was to discover a new relationship between dining spaces and what is consumed within them. This search led to the image of a French wine press, an inspiration that was translated into the detailed expressions in timber, the careful layering of color, and the depth of texture.  The material choices focused on the combined warmth of wood and burnished brass. Elsewhere, blackened steel is used to indicate the structural changes that went on in Victoria as the state became industrialized. Central to the décor’s theme is the motif of bluestone cobbles. Woven through the network of intimate and connected dining spaces, blue surfaces create a circling moat of sorts that separates old from new, and pays homage to the history of this unique Melbourne building.

During the design and construction phase, managed by Ferrante himself, there were many forms of collaboration. The builders, Qube Construction, worked intensively with the existing structure to bring out the character and history of the site. From local handmade lighting by Volker Haug to graphic designers Urchin Associates – who even developed the labels for Hell’s signature Margaret River wines “Roubaix”– the project has created several new layers of history on an iconic Fitzroy site.
SMLWRLD is a cross-disciplinary studio dedicated to the research, development, and production of forward-thinking urban, interior, and architectural spaces using the principle of multiple scales and fostering collaboration with other design disciplines.

The firm also engages in planning local and international workshops, exhibitions, urban interventions, and open space strategies. In addition to the new Hell of the North bar/bistro, the team is known for its award-winning integrated urban sculptures including Terrain Generator and Zoetrope Bridge, limited-edition products including Arete Lamp (IDEA award 2008), and the Polytopia seating system (finalist 2010 Designs of the Year, Design Museum London).  The duo behind SMLWRLD have recently returned from an Asialink artists residency in Tokyo at the beginning of 2012 and are currently undertaking commissions in Australia and Japan.

Project-At-A-Glance
Project: Hell of the North bar/bistro
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Project completion date:  January 2012
Project Team: Lucas Chirnside, Bianca Looney, Albert Chandra, and Kieron Meagher
Builder: Qube Construction
Engineer:  Coulthard Shim Pty Ltd
Project Manager: Adam Ferrante
Lighting Products: Artemide, Volker Haug
Sculpture:  Macrame plant hangers by Sarah Parkes

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