Designing a 360º coffee experience

Interviewed by Adam Bryce

Photography by Josh Griggs

We coffee and chat with CTRL Space director, Chris Stevens, about their interior design fit-out of Kōkako’s new Commercial Bay spot.

Tell us what you do and why you do it.

We create spaces for experiences. We have a strong connection with the hospitality industry from both sides of the drawing board and we believe our designs satisfy both commercial agendas and customers’ expectations.

Tell us about the concept behind Kōkako’s Commercial Bay fit-out and the design process.

I have a very close relationship with Mike Murphy and we worked together collaboratively on the concept. We landed on the idea of a brutalist form, interwoven with tactile, organic materials. The idea was to present a strong shopfront form while, at the same time, creating a sanctuary within; an opportunity for some respite from the chaos and enjoy coffee in every format imaginable.

What references do you consider when designing such a space and how does culture play a role in that?

Culture plays a massive part in our design process — we start the journey by endeavouring to understand our future customer; what they will want, what they will need and how they will behave. Every project is unique and follows a unique path and, in every instance, form follows function. The design process is the route to unlock the opportunity and we try to reference all relevant elements — customer, brand, environment, demographic.

Were there any particularly unusual restrictions to consider in this build? And did the delays have an effect on the final outcome?

Despite the extensive and challenging delays with the development, the final design outcome was not materially affected at all. We conceptualised this project in late 2017, so it was refreshing to finally see it come to life — almost — “that’s right, that’s what we designed — phew, it still looks good!”

There’s always the concern when projects run out so long that by the time the fit-out has been realised, the design maybe commonplace or even worse, irrelevant — the industry changes so quickly and customers expectations are a challenge in their own right to keep up with. Thankfully, the Kōkako aesthetic is a timeless one.

How does sustainability play a part in your work?

We will always try and consider the future life of a fit-out. Where possible, we will opt for sustainable materials but, given the somewhat archaic nature of the construction industry, this is not always easy or financially viable. By considering second- or third-future use of materials and fitting, this promotes the idea of re-use which is one of the key pillars of sustainability.

We understand and respect the Kōkako commitment to sustainability and this informed many of the final procurement decisions; including the counter cladding which is made from over 8,000 upcycled milk bottles.

How has the pandemic affected your business and have you implemented any changes that you’ve kept post-lockdown?

It’s been tough, no doubt about it. We had a massive drop off of project prospects as soon as things started to get prickly and all jobs on were put on hold. The hospitality industry, globally has been decimated but I feel New Zealand is a small beacon of hope. There is confidence in the market place — though some may say this will dissipate when the real recession kicks in, I’m maintaining a positive attitude to the next 12 months. We have seen a surge in enquiries — whether these convert to full-scale projects will remain to be seen but the sentiment is a positive one. As a company, we implemented a reduced working week during the lockdown and are now slowing transitioning back to some normality.  I’m open to the idea of a four-day week and maintain that life/work balance (in that order) we all secretly enjoyed during lockdown.

What’s next for CTRL Space?

We’re really ramping up our social media and brand presence — it’s more important than ever to connect with your current and future customer base. I see the future as one with less volume of projects but of a higher calibre — I also believe this will be reflected in the hospitality and tourism sector and we’re well-positioned to respond to this. Last year, we opened around 26 outlets across New Zealand and in Australia — with this, and all of our counterparts doing similar numbers, I believe this is too many and this saturation of venues is one of the causes of pressure on the industry. I would like to see a more balanced commercial environment where the true value of design is recognised and can work for everyone. We’re also ramping up our business in Australia which (once we are out of this pandemic) represents a great market for us.

ctrl space kokako
ctrl space kokako
ctrl space kokako
ctrl space kokako

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