Relative is a think tank that seeks to better imagine and create the spaces we encounter in our everyday lives – from seamlessly designed urban precincts to our favourite restaurants and retail spaces, including Broadsheet Restaurant. "Relative has co-developed strategic design thinking, place-making and concept development on several projects, often partnering with Foolscap Studio,” says director Dhiren Das. “This includes work for large public precincts such as Barangaroo and Melbourne Central, workplace design for Dentsu and Exchange co-working, retail experience concepts for Lavazza, Sensory Lab and Little Creatures and, more recently, a project for a brand in the LVMH stable."

The premise for Relative emerged around eight years ago when Das and his team identified a disconnect in the industry and sought to be the conduit between big, bold ideas and the finer points of executing them. “Often … a strategy is lost in translation through the immense complexity involved in designing, financing, developing and operating say, a large scale mixed-use precinct or a global retail expansion,” says Das. “We mediate these two worlds through an intensive process of research and strategically led design. So, at the end of the day, we might work with CEOs, developers, strategists, architects, designers, food creators, retailers, business owners and local community to align and achieve a collective goal.”

This collaborative approach is predicated on the fact that our urban spaces are changing. “Public and private space are no longer distinct,” says Das. “People are demanding that urban spaces respond to a multitude of needs and they are asking that big brands act more like good citizens rather than machines of commerce, as was the case in the last century.”

While Relative’s projects typically operate on a much larger scale, its engagement with Broadsheet Restaurant captures its approach and its relationship to the culture of a place in a nutshell. “While a given project may have a smaller physical presence, its cultural, city-making or communication potential could be relatively large in comparison. This was one of those cases,” says Das.

The hospitality industry – the bars, cafes and restaurants that make up our cities – are great examples of spaces whose sum equals more than their parts as they take on an increasingly more significant role in our lives. And, as expectations continue to rise, those businesses that are investing time and money into “more thoughtful and community-centric design”, says Das, are the blueprint of the future. “It’s no longer a throwaway idea. Businesses large and small are identifying the need to re-imagine what they create and how they connect with people. This is what matters most in my opinion, and it’s a massive opportunity for them. Design has well and truly shifted its focus from the things you see and touch to producing ideas that bring meaning to people’s lives.”

For Das, it’s all about understanding and anticipating what people will be demanding from their urban experience in the future. “One thing is for sure,” he says, “it definitely won’t look like the past.”

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