The coffee shop and restaurant are contrasting spaces, both in the basement of Tate Britain, where there is an almost claustrophobic sense of interior. Where the coffee shop is an exercise in rescuing a thoroughly unprepossessing area, the restaurant is an homage to the romantic mural painted by the young Rex Whistler.
The coffee shop required the imposition of strong forms to overcome the existing sense of disorder. The layout consists of a large communal, circular table, with its shape reflected in the ceiling. Mirrors are used in the corner niches to emphasise the diagonals and in the ceiling as decorative elements, as in Soane’s breakfast-room at Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
The restaurant sets out to foster the illusion of walking into the open landscape of the painting. In contrast to the coffee shop, the method here is to undermine the architectural references to a building’s interior. Light is directed so as to appear to have come from the sky in the painting and the ceiling is treated as if it is unsupported. Mirrors suggest that the columns do not meet the ceiling and the design of the carpet evokes running water or blown grass. Light is directed either onto the painting or onto the food, with the furniture treated as a dark background.