City of Food

Community, cacophony and love. The Kitchens transforms the organized chaos of the marketplace into a modern gathering place that’s a cross between food court, food hall and factory, where it’s all about uniting people through one universal love—food.

By Lola Thélin


Lively and chaotic yet refined and orderly—the colorful world of food markets is somehow all of the above. Whether it’s the 1,000-year-old Borough Market in London or the newly opened The Kitchens concocted in Australia last year, these bustling marketplaces are about community, cacophony and love. “Food is becoming even more important in today’s technological world. It’s one of the few things that glues people together and reminds them what being a human being is all about,” says Mark Landini, cofounder and creative director of Sydney-based Landini Associates. The international design and brand consulting firm collaborated with QIC (The Kitchens parent company) to create a $160 million gastronomic mono-floored market called The Kitchens within the Robina Town Centre in Robina, Queensland, Australia.

A food retailing concept, The Kitchens is a cross between food court, food hall and factory. There are more than 50 retailers, as well as pop-ups and short-term tenants, inhabiting the space, offering flavors around the globe and uniting people through a universal love of food. It also challenges the norm of what is typically expected from a food venue. For Landini Associates, it was a terrific challenge. “It’s such a brave idea, as so many rules have been challenged or broken, but that’s the world we live in, and if you stay still, you’ll sink,” Landini adds. “Disruptive businesses, such as Uber, Airbnb, Netflix and Amazon, are now the normal in a world where ‘the norm’ is constantly being challenged and reinvented.”

The Kitchens’ design aspect says “no” to defined spaces and boundaries and “yes” to the charming chaos of the world’s best markets. “It’s the delicious pleasure of being surrounded by people making food,” says Ben Goss, graphic designer for Landini Associates, which handled everything, from master planning and interior design to branding, signage, uniforms and tenant guidelines.

To help emphasize the experience of community, simplicity and learning, the environmental graphics are fun and super-sized. “[It’s] an attempt to capture the spirit of making, eating, dining, singing, talking and sharing,” Goss explains. “It’s also a unique and slightly quirky approach to an identity for a large shopping center.” The signage is informative but playful with its oversized font, adding its own element of theater to the space. The font style, identity and color palette are simple: black and white with a heavy peppering of bright orange directional lines and numbers. The functional yet comic oversized arrow lightboxes provide a clear and direct navigation, again in a theatrical way. There are super-sized stenciled heads with vegetables and kitchen utensils as hats. “The uniforms and the lightbox signage are designed to present a dual identity, enabling The Kitchens to be the host of each operator,” Goss says.

The two-story food precinct is built underneath a magnificent, undulating, mirrored ceiling that was independently commissioned before Landini Associates was brought in. Landini explains it was almost expected for them to place all of the retailers on the bottom floor. Instead, he decided to maximize that volume. “We thought of the 14th-century bridges in England that were full of little buildings that were interconnected,” Landini describes. “So, we created the space on a duo-plane, and created lots of little buildings that were connected vertically with staircases, lifts and bridges.” The use of space further connects everyone together. A patron can purchase a drink downstairs, then go upstairs to consume it. From the mezzanine level, patrons can observe and watch fellow diners and restaurateurs prepare the food, then go downstairs to purchase.

There is a flux of movement happening at the space. Food trucks, pop-up markets and food bicycles break down the idea that a business can only trade from a specific space in a specific way. People and businesses are bumping into each other. Deliveries take place on the main floor.

Every tenant boasts an open kitchen. It is real life, simultaneously muddled, organized and delightful. The business concept answers the consumer’s shopping and eating habits: convenience, fun and community. “If you can combine those, then people are going to love you,” Landini says. “The Kitchens is aimed squarely at [these] needs. The challenge was to offer more than just food.” The food strategy is simple: retailers and specialists produce and sell fresh food, done really well. It’s food you want to eat every day.

“Food is about community,” Landini says. “It’s a social glue, and that’s never going to change.” The Kitchens is the modern-day model of the campfire, connecting people through cooking and encouraging noise, discovery and collaboration.

 

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project file

The Kitchens
Robina, Queensland, Australia


RETAILER
QIC

CONTRACT DESIGN FIRM/SIGNAGE/GRAPHICS
Landini Associates

ARCHITECT/LIGHTING/FLOORING
ACME

EXECUTIVE ARCHITECT
The Buchan Group

ENGINEER
MPN Consulting

FURNITURE
Café Culture + Insitu (custom oak tables), Zenith Interiors


Information in the project file is provided by the retailer and/or design firm.

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