They may be internationally renowned for huge structures from Adelaide to Shanghai, but multidisciplinary design firm HASSELL (who work across architecture, interior design, landscape architecture and urban planning) also helped shape some of Melbourne’s most exciting temporary food and wine offerings to have popped up over the past few years.
The HASSELL team work several floors up in a design studio in the city, and outside their more corporate clients, have worked with venerable foodies including St ALi’s Salvatore Malatesta and chef Benjamin Cooper as well as property developer Michael Yates on South Yarra’s Yarra Lane Precinct, designing MoPho, Deba and Outpost Dining Room.
But it is more recently that the forward-thinking studio has begun building outside their usual structure, with experiences such as last year’s Melbourne Food and Wine Festival event titled ‘Wine Wanker: How Not To Drink Wine Like a Wanker’ on their studio rooftop.
The year before, HASSELL’s young design team were the masterminds behind Chasing Kitsune, the pop-up Yatai truck that took city food punters by storm during the 2011 State of Design Festival.
This year, HASSELL have joined forces with Melbourne Food and Wine once again, and are set to transform the large red steps of Queensbridge Square into a terraced coffee plantation dubbed the Urban Coffee Farm & Brew Bar.
Mary Papaioannou, a principal landscape architect at HASSELL, says the rise of the pop-up has energised Melbourne’s food and wine culture. “Food and design has a lot to do with immediacy and fashion. It changes quickly, and the pop-up vehicle is a good one because of the speed of turnover.”
Landscape architect Brenton Beggs relishes the chance to see projects like Chasing Kitsune and the Urban Coffee Farm leap from the studio to a physical presence in such a short space of time. “Normally our projects go for years and years,” he laughs.
After being given the Queensbridge Square site, they ran wild with the idea of a terrace coffee plantation and the whole process of bringing the beans from Guatemala to Melbourne’s coffee cups. “We got really interested in the logistical infrastructure involved in getting this commodity to us, so that’s why we’ve used shipping containers, palettes and all those raw materials. Then you have the coffee plants.”
He says that working freely with interior design and architecture colleagues on the pop-up concept allowed them to take more risks. “You can have a bit more fun with it and come up with some really crazy ideas. You’re not so worried you’ll be shot down.”
Cara Gabriel, an interior designer, loved the hands-on approach to Chasing Kitsune. “We were the ones driving the truck, setting up and we created the stencil art. People from the studio who weren’t involved got on-board too.”
Today’s pop-up doesn’t necessarily mean tomorrow’s trash either, according to architecture associate Elliet Spring. “We’re all very conscious about sustainability, so we tried to use materials like recycled shipping containers at the end of their usable life on the Urban Coffee Farm, and palettes that will go back into circulation. We’re hoping to touch the environment lightly.”
Natalie O’Brien, CEO of Melbourne Food and Wine, is thrilled at the ongoing collaboration with HASSELL and inspired by the comparatively gung-ho attitude of the young design team. “Design and architecture is a big part of the food and wine experience today,” she says. “A sense of place is incredibly important. “
Simply plating up good food and matching it with a great drop won’t cut it anymore in this city. You have to impress the diners with an impressive space and experience too, she implies.
“The collaboration with HASSELL, in terms of how we develop the space physically, ensures it’s not just an architectural space, but one that tells the story of the journey of the coffee bean right through to the cup,” she says.
She hopes visitors to Melbourne Food and Wine will be wowed by the Urban Coffee Farm, which embraces this year’s theme of ‘Earth’. “We didn’t want an everyday pop-up and that’s where HASSELL was able to support us to create this beautiful space that spreads out and is green and inviting. The Urban Coffee Farm is the most adventurous project we’ve done.”
The Urban Coffee Farm & Brew bar is at Queensbridge Square from March 1 to 17.