SHH created a sleek and sexy new bar and restaurant for premier champagne and wine bar brand Dion, set within a historic building on West India Quay in London’s Canary Wharf. The new bar, with capacity for up to 360 people, occupies the ground and lower ground of the space, as well as an external entrance area (The Veuve Clicquot Terrace), bordered by bamboo planting and lined with tented pavilions. As well as being responsible for the interior architecture and design of the space, SHH also applied the brand to new menus, matchboxes and signage.
The West India Quay building in which dion is housed has a fascinating past. Built at the apogée of the slave trade in 1802, it formed part of the single largest and most technically-advanced building of its era; one of series of nine linked buildings, which covered almost a mile in combined frontage and which could service four clipper ships at any one time.
Only two of the buildings, built to store sugar, rum and coffee from the Caribbean, now survive. These are Number Two Warehouse (in which dion is located) and Number One Warehouse, now home to the Museum of Docklands. The other seven buildings were destroyed during bombing raids during WWII in 1940. Number Two Warehouse is home to a series of popular mid-market bars and restaurants at ground floor level and also houses two storeys of retail, with residential units above.
Certain of the key features of the original warehouse were listed and untouchable from a design point of view. These became key features of the new scheme and include two original walls, original cobbles in the outside Terrace area and flagstones on the lower-ground floor plus stunning original timber columns (10 on the ground floor and 6 on the lower-ground).
The design concept was to develop and accentuate Dion’s status as a luxury brand, creating 3D and 2D brand associations in terms of pattern, colour and materiality. Previously, the space had been used as a restaurant, with two thirds of the space used for back of house. For dion, the configuration was inverted so that two thirds of the new space is now front of house, with ample kitchen facilities now condensed at the rear of the ground floor area.
Structurally, SHH exposed all the existing timber columns, scrapping the plasterboard that contained them. The space on both levels was long and thin with no natural light apart from two tiny sources and was therefore very challenging to design around. SHH’s response was to use lighting creatively and maximise reflective surfaces throughout the scheme. The client’s brief for the space included a request for a glitzy, gold staircase and a feature display area to showcase Dion’s champagne offer.
Location: London, UK