A big new suburb needs a big cold beer.
Story: Christopher Holder
The Marsden Brewhouse:
Hawthorne Avenue, Marsden Park NSW
(02) 8710 3535 or www.themarsdenbrewhouse.com.au
It didn’t take months of research. You wouldn’t have spotted teams of researchers, clipboards in hand, testing the Western Sydney waters. Marsden Park is a new suburb about the size of the Sydney CBD without a proper pub.
The Laundy Group knows pubs, and knows what the Sydney suburban heartland want in a pub. Really it was a matter of identifying the best site and then putting together the best possible team to realise the project.
One of the first appointments was Altis Architecture. Altis Architecture was engaged by the design and construction head contractor, FDC Construction, for all stages.
Altis knows hospitality: not only the design and construction of hospitality venues but the way they tick.
For all of The Laundy Group’s pub experience, it had never embarked on a new pub build. The Marsden Brewhouse was its first ‘green field’ venture. So Altis Architecture’s extensive experience would be crucial.
“The Laundy Group isn’t a ‘pub developer’, as such,” remarked Altis Architecture Director, Andrew O’Connell. “We were engaged to design a large pub for them, in the manner of the large taverns that are popular in the suburbs of Sydney.”
Altis Architecture became aware that The Marsden Brewhouse was different and important to The Laundy Group. By virtue of being a new build, The Marsden Brewhouse could be a true standard bearer for the pub group and become part of the legacy of veteran pub operator, Arthur Laundy.
In other words, it would be an important project — a project that would transcend its ‘frontier suburban tavern’ status.
“In the early planning phase we talked about Arthur producing his own beer,” continued Andrew O’Connell. “He’s been in the industry for a long time and this could be a good point of difference. And we’re not talking about a micro brewery — a vanity project — we’re talking about a full-blown production brewery that would not only supply this pub but other pubs in his group, and even be distributed more generally. So that was the focus of the building, a ‘hero’ aspect that became a brewhouse concept, which conspicuously takes pride of place in the building.”
The industrial-sized vats and tanks certainly make for a significant positioning statement. It’s clear to all, The Marsden Brewhouse takes its beer seriously.
COME ONE, COME ALL
The large site is designed as a F&B destination for all in the area. There’s parking for days. There’s extensive outdoor dining and drinking — in fact, some 40 percent of the pub’s capacity is naturally ventilated and/or open the elements — and families are welcomed with open arms, thanks to kids’ play areas and family-friendly dining options.
The sheer scale of the hotel is daunting, and it was fascinating to discuss with Altis Architecture’s Andrew O’Connell how such a large floor plan can be ‘de-scaled’, as he puts it, to ensure the experience of The Marsden Brewhouse isn’t daunting.
The design and layout favours families. Groups of mums, dads and kids can access the hotel with ease. More adult-oriented zones of the venue, such as the TAB and the sports viewing lounge are located deeper into the pub, while family-oriented zones are immediately accessible, such as the bistro, casual Italian eatery and the areas adjacent to the playground (the conspicuous playground makes The Marsden Brewhouse’s kid-friendly credentials as obvious to families as the ‘show brewery’s’ stainless steel vats stamp its beer-lovers’ bona fides).
“Australia has moved on from the days of vast dining halls you might find in licensed clubs some 15 years ago,” observed Andrew O’Connell. “The art of designing a large pub is to create sub spaces that people can feel comfortable in and experience something different every time.”
The journey into the hotel takes guests through these sub spaces, that target specific groups. The TAB, public bar, sports viewing area, and big screen outdoor area are ranged to one side — predominantly attractive to men; while the café, lounges and alfresco lounging are on the other — predominantly favoured by women. It’s not some kind of hospitality version of gender apartheid so much as recognising the habits of human beings and catering to them.
EFFICIENT BACK OF HOUSE
The venue’s sub spaces are comforting, welcoming and various, but the back of house story is very different: centralised, vertically consolidated over the three levels, and built for efficiency of service, food preparation and stocking.
The most obvious service point nexus is a huge four-sided bar that supports service to the courtyard on one side; internally to the main dining, public bar on the second side; the TAB on another side; and finally to the café and lounge area on the forth facet. The bar is visually open to allow sightlines through to all areas. It’s an operational masterstroke.
The food service is mediated through a special ‘stack’ that originates from the basement on the west side of the pub, which accepts the deliveries and is least visible from the street and arriving patrons. From the basement, the loading is transported to the next level where the production kitchens are located, and then moved up through the venue to main trading floor’s finishing kitchens and the function centre on the top floor that can cater to as many as 400.
The arrangement conceals the heavy-lifting aspects of the food prep, without denying patrons the chance to observe chefs plating up their meal or tossing their margarita into the wood-fired pizza oven.
A private dining room rounds out the feasting options, set banquet style for 18, in a magnificent space conducive to any manner of special occasion.
HOW DO I LOOK
‘De-scaling’ the floor plan into ‘sub spaces’ might be key, but so is making the venue look good — something Altis Architecture (with its award-winning design nous) knows only too well.
The building embraces the industrial nature of the area — there’s a giant Bunnings down the road, IKEA has a huge warehouse nearby etc. Two simple, steel pavilion-style buildings form the basis of the brewhouse. Inside, the spaces remain intimate — no towering vaulted ceilings — but patrons can gaze up into the mechanical services.
The main design device to break up the internal spaces are screens. They’re not afterthoughts, they’re beautiful and play an integral role in the look of the brewhouse. The pendant lighting also make a statement in helping to break up the space into dedicated zones.
“The industrial bones of the space have been layered up to be a hospitality venue,” noted Andrew O’Connell. “You can still see the structure in ceilings, the steel frames, and the use of natural materials is a big part of the design ethos and contribute to ensuring the venue doesn’t date easily.”
Outdoors, the main courtyard is anchored by a huge tree — much like The Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay, it will serve as the focal point. The courtyard look is sophisticated, with a variety of seating and dining options. A Real Flame ‘fire pit’ also serves to break up the space. You can sit out entirely in the elements, under cover, or, if you’re organised, you can book yourself a cabana — great for groups of up to eight.
The landscaping has been taken seriously, and one can easily imagine how the plantings will develop and evolve in time.
The Laundy Group and Altis Architecture has kept families foremost in their focus. Marsden Park is prime territory for young families staking their claim to affordable living. Sure, you can push the boat out by ordering the $50 rib eye, but the bistro menu has more kids’ menu items than most.
“With the growth of families in this area, that’s what a lot of people are looking for,” confirms Andrew O’Connell. “A place you can casually dine with friends and for there be more than enough to keeps the kids occupied and happy. Not everyone can afford a babysitter every weekend and the Marsden Brewhouse will offer a great night out while including the kids… without spending a fortune.”
The Marsden Brewhouse provides a remarkable blueprint for future new-build suburban taverns. Families help ensure a vibrant community atmosphere, and Altis Architecture has struck the right balance of all-ages compatibility without sacrificing style and sophistication. Yes, you can be a serious beer-led pub and maintain a great playground.
“Human beings are social animals,” observes Andrew O’Connell. “It’s a deep desire to find somewhere to go and be around other human beings. The Marsden Brewhouse serves that purpose at all levels.”.
SUCCESSFUL BUILD: TEAM EFFORT
FDC Project Manager, Peter Stait: “It was a real pleasure working in a collaborative fashion with Andrew and his team, and the Laundy Hotels group. Having everyone at the table at the very inception of the process enabled the best outcomes in design excellence and construction efficiency to be baked into the design and budget, and reinforced throughout each stage. It provided a lot of value and certainty for the client, and was also just a thoroughly satisfying and enjoyable project for all parties.”
Altis Architecture Director, Andrew O’Connell: “The success of this exciting project was largely due to an outstanding team effort. FDC at all levels demonstrated exceptional attention to detail whilst delivering the project with speed and efficiency. Their ability to understand the Architectural intention of the build and preserve this through to completion was manifest throughout the entire process. The result is a building of design merit that was constructed in an expert manner according to budget and brief.”
LOW PROFILE AV
Noisebox, MD, John McCauley: “The brief was for a very high quality AV deployment that would keep an unassuming, low profile. There are 26 audio zones serviced low impedance and constant voltage loudspeaker systems depending on the needs of the area. Q-Sys takes care of the audio processing and amplification. The function rooms feature AV as an essential element of the facility: presentations, program viewing, client-accessible facilities for self-management and AMX control systems feature heavily throughout. The MATV solution comprises of HD modulation of FTA and PTV channels. The TAB facilities use a variety of LG display technologies. The outdoor LED screen compliments the al fresco nature of the venue, delivering a variety of channels in standard definition high brightness for daylight viewing.”