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Inside Spiritland|||
Inside Spiritland
22 Feb 2019

The Royal Festival Hall's new bar, Spiritland, sounds like nowhere else in London

Words by  Photo by Andrew Meredith

In the artistic environs of the Royal Festival Hall, Spiritland’s new restaurant also puts the emphasis on acoustic pleasures

Built as part of the Festival of Britain in 1951, the Royal Festival Hall is rooted in design. Already home to the Skylon restaurant, the modernist building also recently opened its doors to a dining offering dedicated to music lovers – restaurant and bar Spiritland.

Spiritland Royal Festival Hall comes after locations in King’s Cross and Mayfair, and while the interior design of Spiritland King’s Cross was inspired by Japanese hi-fi references, the Southbank venue rings closer to home by
virtue of its location alone. “We’ve taken a number of cues from the building, which has fed into our design process,” explains Paul Noble, Spiritland’s artistic director. “Everything we do is in some way influenced by modernism, whether it’s subtle or overt. Canteen, which inhabited the space previously, did it, and we’ve endeavoured to do it, just with a much more elevated and luxurious approach.”

Located at ground level, Spiritland Royal Festival Hall contributes to the South Bank buzz with a large outdoor area, and compared to its other locations – the King’s Cross site sits around 70 people and Mayfair is a tiny headphone shop – it has around 180 covers. And with music at the heart of the Spiritland ethos, it is no surprise that acoustics were of the utmost importance indoors.

Spiritland. Photo by Andrew Meredith

The Spiritland team worked with a team of acoustic consultants in order to provide a distinct “audio signature” to the space, one that, as Noble explains, “wouldn’t just enhance the performance of the sound system, but would actually create a sympathetic and pleasurable acoustic environment in itself”.

This attention to acoustics manifests itself throughout the space: the custom ceiling tiles are acoustic, the wall panels are perforated, and the velvet curtains are bespoke “from the atelier to London’s West End”. The furniture is by British manufacturer Very Good and Proper, while the bar features Max Lamb’s signature Marmoreal for Dzek.

“Plenty of public areas simply haven’t thought about acoustic considerations, or they’re an afterthought at the end of the design process,” says Noble, but Spiritland has not only designed with acoustics in mind, it has built an entire brand around the “listening experience”.

Spiritland's booth seating. Photo by Andrew Meredith

The Royal Festival Hall location indeed features a large booth with EMT broadcast turntables, a bespoke DJ mixer and discrete monitoring. And now for the music mavens: the space also uses two sound systems – one Living Voice system, a horn-loaded pair of speakers and a D&B Audiotechnik system. “Combined they create an incredibly immersive sound, unlike anything I’ve ever heard in a restaurant,” says Noble.

“The Royal Festival Hall is a unique location in the middle of Europe’s largest arts centre,” he continues, and sitting alongside nearly 7ha of music, theatre, art, literature and performance, the new Spiritland seems to fit the bill just fine.

Noble concludes: “We felt that the blend of music, culture and hospitality that we’d explored in our first venue in King’s Cross would translate over here perfectly.”

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