Following the success of The Grounds of Alexandria, owners Ramzey Choker and Jack Hanna have opened up another wholesome venue – The Grounds of the City, located in The Galeries on George Street, Sydney. Caroline Choker and Vince Alafaci of Acme and Co., who is behind the new venue’s design, discuss the project.
ADR: How did the Grounds of the City project come to you?
Choker and Alafaci: The Grounds is like a child that we have nurtured over the last five years. Caroline’s brother Ramzey owns The Grounds, so from the conception of the Alexandria venue to the most recently completed City project, we have been collaborating with him and the team to continue the evolution and expand the brand across multiple platforms/venues.
What was the space like before you started work on it? What was there before?
Prior to The Grounds, the site was an amalgamation of two retail stores, Mecca Cosmetica and a shoe store. At the termination of their leases, the space was stripped back to a cold shell with concrete floors, ceilings and block walls with loads of redundant services. The site was essentially soulless.
What did the brief involve?
The brief was to transport the patron to an era of old-school charm and reignite the heart and soul of Sydney’s CBD. The venue drew upon inspiration from traditional coffeehouse cultures and their nostalgia. Our role was to create an intricate design, ensuring that patrons were taken on a sensory journey, where each visit is a truly crafted experience. Materials were selected, fixtures sourced and we collaborated with true craftspeople to ensure that all details and building techniques were of the era.
How does the design of The Grounds of the City link to its sister venue, The Grounds of Alexandria, or was the second venue designed totally independent of the Alexandria venue?
At its core, The Grounds’ foundation and offerings are the same but we see the City project as a grown-up version of the Alexandria venture, where the experience taps into a new community of city workers, dwellers and shoppers.
What was the inspiration/theme behind the project?
Capturing the essence of old school hospitality inspired by the original city coffee houses of the 1920s. The space is carefully crafted with a focus on intimacy and warmth, a relaxing retreat from the hustle and bustle of the CBD. Overlaid materiality creates a sensory journey throughout the venue, where all elements are bespoke and created using craft-like technics which have largely disappeared from contemporary building and design.
How involved was the client from the initial conceptual stages and throughout the design process?
Our clients are hands-on with all of our projects. During the design process, a series of workshops including manufacturing 1:1 prototypes ensures that the criteria of form, function and patron experience are met. The success of The Grounds projects is due to the collaboration, which continually challenges all aspects of the project until the final result is a holistic solution.
Can you talk us through some of your favourite elements of the design?
Rather than favourite elements within the project, we love to observe staff and patrons interacting with our spaces. Each time we visit our projects, we sit at different vantage points to observe the spatial quality, human behaviour/ergonomics, operations and, most of all, the experience. The process informs us which elements are successful and which can be further developed. This ensures that ideas develop and we continue to evolve.
Photography by Charlotte Curd.
Read about The Grounds of Alexandria here.