Voltaire bar and Vaults
Tuesday 18 Jun 2013


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The Voltaire bar and Vaults at the Crowne Plaza - The City Hotel in Blackfriars London were created from the former ' 19 Below' hotel bar and a series of under pavement hotel storage vaults.
Our brief was to design a vibrant and commercially effective destination venue in the Heart of the City of London that would appeal to City workers, hotel guests, Londoners and tourists from lunchtime to late evening every day of the week.
The challenge was to transform what was previously a ' hidden secret' of a hotel bar - a place that was formerly and mainly frequented just by hotel guests - and accessed via the hotel lobby.
We created an enhanced entrance on New Bridge Street - directly from the street - and retained also the internal access within the hotel in order to attract new passing customers as well as appeal still to the hotel guests.
The lightwell - previously a dead space - we designed as a new drinking and smoking terrace with retractable canvas awnings to protect customers from the weather- and to form the important link between the newly restored vaults and the hotel bar.
Each of the vaults has become a private bookable space - some seating just 2 people and others 8 - 10 people. Large photographic imagery has been used to decorate the vault walls - each vault having a different photo of a vault of Voltaire's partnering champagne house in France - Pommery.
The overall design of the bar and vaults was inspired by our love of ' the finer things in life' - using materials, textures and colours we associate with such luxuries - champagne, caviar, cigars, pearls and luxury global brands being the direct inspiration.
The champagne association has been carried through into the bar area design - and here we created a champagne library at one end which displays the complete range of Pommery champagnes as well as books about champagne and its history and guide books about the best bars in London and around the world.
The resulting Voltaire bar and vaults has exceeded the client's expectations in terms of commercial success and has broadened the customer base to become one of the City's favourite new social venues in just 4 months since being launched.
Lead Designer: Sue Wheldon RIBA – Principal of Brandarchitects