- Article by Sandra Tan
Interior architect Adele Winteridge speaks to me over lunch at Uncle, a contemporary Asian eatery in Melbourne’s lively St Kilda. The setting is particularly apt for an interview with the enterprising Winteridge, who not only designed the eclectic fitout at Uncle, but is also a partner in the business.With a restaurateur mother, Winteridge’s childhood revolved around the energetic hub of the working kitchen – in the young architect’s own words, she has “hospitality in the blood”. Since starting her practice in 2009, Winteridge’s Foolscap Studio has become a power-house of hip, tailored hospitality design.
At the core of the studio’s creative ethos is a keen eye for the talent of kindred collaborators across other disciplines. “We do see these cross-pollinations as being really helpful to our overall identity as a practice,” Winteridge says. Foolscap’s dynamic approach is kept fresh by the skilled artists, stylists, designers and craftspeople in their circle.
“We like to explore this idea of ‘whole brand thinking’ – approaching a project from a holistic perspective,” says Winteridge. “We can look at it in terms of its impact on a suburb, a street, a city, a country. Even on a small scale, our projects can have an impact on the way we use the city.”
This capacity for attentive, highly considered detail has led to some stellar collaborations for Foolscap. Recently, the team was invited to Copenhagen for a pilgrimage to the internationally acclaimed Noma restaurant, providing an understanding of the original venue to inform their design of a uniquely Australian iteration in Sydney. Foolscap worked with pioneering gastronomic heavyweight, René Redzepi, and his expert staff, to achieve an elegant, richly nuanced temporary dining experience.
The Foolscap team are especially engaged with the problem-solving aspect of hospitality design, enhancing a venue’s workflow through carefully considered planning. “Noma works very differently to other restaurants we’ve designed, so there’s a lot of learning in being able to complement the way they do things,” Winteridge says. A celebrated feature of the space, Noma’s open kitchen removes the barrier between chef and patron. “They are very much with the guest the entire time. There’s no division between front-of-house and back-of-house.”
The culture surrounding celebrity chefs in the age of #foodporn has made global stages out of professional kitchens. Historically concealed from view, behind- the-scenes access is today prized – diners want to be immersed in the skill and process of making. “Kitchens have always been somewhere hidden and dirty, not somewhere you would be invited, but there is a real change going on there,” Winteridge says.
Visiting Noma in Sydney for lunch recently, Winteridge was pleased to receive feedback from floor staff telling her that the Australian venue “It has a flow and efficiency that they love working in. It was great to hear – that even with such a top restaurant, we had helped to innovate how they use their space.”
Foolscap began seven years ago as a solo venture and has grown to a team of 10, offering expertise in strategic planning, architecture and interior design, as well as graphic and industrial design. “We’re currently growing, but we want to remain a mid-size firm. We don’t want to grow too big, we want to keep the quality there,” Winteridge says.
“We love working with people at the top of their game – that really defines the projects and clients we take on. We just want to work with the best, we’re not asking for much!”
Foolscap’s impressive momentum is set to continue with a number of hospitality projects underway in both Sydney and Melbourne – a residential development, a new workspace for a digital agency and plans to open another Uncle venue in Melbourne’s CBD. And Sydney, watch this space – Foolscap’s team is continuing to flourish, preparing to establish a second studio in the ‘other’ design capital. “We do have a space in Sydney, but no one actually works in it – we just use it when we’re there,” Winteridge says. “Our Sydney studio fluctuates based on how many projects we have on, with the team working from both studios. We are looking at growing the team up there, as it’s a really exciting time to be working between the cities.”
Image at top: Adele Winteridge and Dhiren Das of Foolscap Studio at the Wulugul Pop Up space in Sydney’s Barangaroo precinct, photo by Penny Lane.