Inspired by set design, Anna Drummond applies her trademark multidisciplinary approach to space making at Tank Fish and Chippery in Melbourne.
Likening her work to “spatial storytelling,” designer Anna Drummond developed the interior, branding and graphics of Tank Fish and Chippery with the notion that “all details feed into the language of the story,” as she says. A prime corner site on Lygon Street in Carlton – Melbourne’s Italian locale – and a client with the vision of a new sustainable seafood experience infused with a subtle Mediterranean ambience, provided a delectable setting and plot.
Brand development was the starting point and emanated from the site, which opportunely exuded a fish-tank allure. The character-laden Victorian period building embellished with neoclassical remnants was further endowed with double frontage, two entries and parkland outlook. Budget was applied wisely to the derelict premises. A new concrete slab provided stability to the fragile building. Its polished finish was a major success and a reference to an aquarium base. New openable windows improved on 1970s-era glazing and enabled the shopfront to capitalize on indoor-outdoor dining. There was the aspiration to express the eatery’s specialization in chef-cooked, market-fresh seafood, while creating a point of difference on the streetscape.
Stemming from the client’s research and enthusiasm, Drummond built on an edgy, handmade and illustrated aesthetic. Her drawing skills assisted in conveying concepts to the client and in gaining seamless council approval. “The whole thing is set up like a theatre, there is seating set up around the perimeter, with the focus on the communal table and kitchen backdrop, and the transparency of outdoors looking in,” explains Drummond.
Initial study in illustration and graphics preceding her work in interior architecture sparked the designer’s fascination for the geometric patterns of handmade Turkish tiles in the Iznik tradition, applied as cladding to the steel-framed feature table element. Drummond embarked on an exhaustive search of Istanbul via internet, fax and telephone to find them, after contacting local importers proved fruitless. Persistence uncovered a traditional ceramics specialist and Drummond selected eight different patterns. To create a strong graphic element, Drummond chose not to connect the patterns in the conventional way, instead opting for a “picnic blanket” effect to reinforce the communal nature of the central table. An array of existing beams and different levels are concealed behind the plaster ceiling and black painted floating bulkhead, drawing focus to the communal area.
Another design driver was the need to accommodate the client’s investment in a commercial kitchen that would function well spatially, while displaying the main characters – the chefs and the fresh seafood produce – with a sense of theatre and focus. Marble mosaics cut into fish-scale shapes envelop the seafood display cabinet to accentuate the “jewels” housed within.
The space is reflected through a blue, liquid-like background – tiles in this exact blue were found in order to provide a nod to the building’s Victorian origins. Added to this touch of quirkiness is the illusion of Tank’s white neon signage “melting into the backdrop of deep indigo Victorian tiles,” says Drummond. “To me, there is a craftedness associated with space making that is more than a technical architectural approach.” Finishes were chosen to be robust but also to contribute to the storyline. Case in point is the banquette seating, covered in appetizing Danish Kvadrat neoprene fabric. This wetsuit-style material, with its very literal marine connotation, is a superlative finish to a beguiling visual narrative.