Endorsed by

Nudel Bar

This is an article from the Architecture Australia archives and may use outdated formatting

Attracting a buzz of appreciation and an RAIA state commendation,
Melbourne’s Nudel Bar delivers neo-sixties and seventies
imagery to urban groovers of the nineties. The architects are
Neustupny McLean Bertram Wilson with Peter Maddison.

top Bourke Street Facade at night, with Florentinos at left. above Lyn Pool’s digital images treated as Laminex Customart on the tabletop and ‘mirror’ canopy of each booth.

Fairy lights in Bourke Street trees seen from the first floor.

The staircase and floral relief wall of painted MDF.

More photos can be found
in the version!

Photography Ian Davidson and Lucinda McLean Review Julie Irving

1. Nudel Bar-In between time; between Pellegrini’s, Florentino’s and Kartner Bar (Loos); a gap in the block ( ); between flatness and depth, middle ground neither near nor far, no figure or ground. A glass wall, stencilled dots become flower blots shifting soundlessly, float to neon mimicry inside; outside is inside out; in falls, pulling out, a staircase wall, sculpted (‘Vault’-like cave peril), yellow embossed wall flowers (Warhol Pop-Minimal) escape, leak and field up. Floor slipping, slides up the wall to the ceiling plate dangling down, upside-down bench tops, and from below rise up through the floor, these photographic bench booths (stretched flower light) mirror bright, jutting perpendicularly through the eastern wall. Relational, liquid, spare; a resonating interstice.
2. Nudel Bar is part of a fraternity of restaurants and bars at the top of Bourke Street. The site sits as an anomaly in an otherwise intact terrace block; a curtain wall infill in the Victorian streetscape between Pellegrini’s and Florentino’s. This break in the block (formerly a Chinese restaurant) was perceived as a ‘gap’ by the clients, who were interested in a contingent but innovative approach to the culinary traditions of the street. With this brief, the office of NMBW, in association with Maddison Architects, sought to investigate notions of the gap architecturally through a speculative set of ideas propositioning ambiguity and betweenness.
3. NMBW began the project by selecting elements from neighbouring cafés which had a connection to European precedent (mirrors, timber veneer, neon and stool/bench seating). These became agencies through which ideas of between-ness were realised and were also the means by which site location, representational semantics, café typology and cultural interplay could be addressed.

To read this architectural document, we need to look at the game play. The spatial taunt or banter that is orchestrated between exterior and interior, image and abstraction, the physical and the ephemeral is not an oppositional dialectic. Instead, it becomes an attempt to catalyse an architectural opportunity by which inbetween-ness and crossover become an articulate space. Much like Nicholson Baker’s observation of smoothness as "a secondary inference on the part of the confused fingertip, based on its perception of many fleeting roughnesses running underneath it too quickly to be individually considered", the spatial effect is gestated out of ambiguity.

So how does it work? Nudel Bar is not a crisp, rectangular expectancy. Whilst there is a formal and repetitive rhythm of tables and benches, composition is out to disarm the orthogonal, collapse distinctions and unravel continuities. The double-scale view of upstairs and downstairs is held unifocally by a thin glass surface-a liquid, chimerical interchange of exterior and interior images. A patterned sequence of dots (floating flower clouds) breaks and quivers this surface to shift viewing clarity and dissolve distinction between streetscape, reflection and interior. Further movement into the interior is created conceptually, by placing familiar outside elements on the inside (street number, neon sign and railing).

Inside, the western wall is yanked away to cleave the staircase passage, creating both a kind of cave interior near the entrance, and a running surface which links upstairs and downstairs, front and back as a flowing promenade. A mirror cleverly doppelgängs the staircase cavity-deepening space behind the bar, where different depth densities are squashed and melded, cropped and framed. Colour is used as a geometric drawing, demarcating and linking elements. Wood panelling divides the eastern wall mirror at eye level, sabotaging our reflected image and blocking a uniform view of the mirror surface and its seductive illusory depth, thus forcing unexpected views of body parts.

Surface effects range from the ephemeral (photographic bench tops, mirrors and window transfers) to the palpable (staircase wall, textured wood panelling and wall embossing), each toying with our perceptual and conceptual understanding.

By hanging bench forms upside down from the ceiling, as duplications of those existing on the ground (another perceptual taunt), discrete booths are created. Intimately lit by what looks like smouldering luminous mesh, these bench tops usurp expectations of solidity by creating fuzzy surfaces of photo-illusionistic space. Flower images (tulips) form in the surface fuzz (focus occurs at unexpected distances and angles), stretching out from and into the mirror; a liquid waxy glow evoking scents and fields more cogent than the reality of the restaurant table flower.

When flowers are severed from nature, they become ornamental and are used universally across cultures as a decorative motif. NMBW manipulate this fact to set up a series of interplays addressing ideas about the ornamental-the flower motif materialising as bas-relief (wall embossing), abstraction (window dot transfers), light source (neon fixtures) and photographic illusion (bench tops).

By macerating distinction between interior and exterior, image and object, abstraction and illusion, Nudel Bar evolves a contiguity between the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional; a polymorphous inbetween-ness. Distinctions between spatial modes are stretched, leaked and streamed epigrammatically into one another, effecting a spatial sleight-of-hand which conjures a new physicality. A space contingent on fluid relationships and multiple systems, it is a somewhere between the kitchen, dining room and living room … an expanded gap.

Julie Irving is an artist and lecturer at the Victorian College of the Arts and RMIT’s Department of Landscape, Environment and Planning.

Nudel Bar, MelbourneArchitects NMBW Architecture Studio with Peter Maddison- project team Marika Neustupny, Nigel Bertram, Peter Maddison, Barbara Moje. Clients Dur-e Dara, Marijan Klym, John Maclay, Helen Saniga and Yorgos Tserexidis. Structural Engineer Hamilton MacLeod. Building Surveyor Peter Luzinat & Associates. Photographic Design Lyn Pool. Digital Imaging Mark Muller, Custom Lights Astrid Huwald.



Published online: 1 Mar 1997


Architecture Australia, March 1997

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