21st century meeting spaces
Entertainment and catering venues have undergone radical transformations in recent years in response to changes in lifestyle, social norms and consumer habits. This trend has been compounded by the aestheticisation of daily living, resulting in a situation in which design and new technologies permeate many of the places and products that form part of our everyday lives. In this complex and constantly evolving scenario, the architecture and design world sees projects for these spaces as laboratories for new trends, as opportunities for experimenting with materials, lighting design, composition and distribution, for integrating the various functions into a single venue and creating distinctive and versatile ambiences. But the ultimate expression of functionality in response to the needs of modern lifestyles is the trend of opening entertainment venues inside shopping centres, another cult contemporary location. One such successful union of these two modern-day meeting places is the Astragalo Cocktail Restaurant in the town of Gravellona Toce in northern Italy’s Piedmont region. Opened in 2009 in the Parco Commerciale Laghi shopping centre, positioned strategically just off the interchange between the Lake Maggiore state road and the international motorway to the Simplon pass, the Astragalo has rapidly become one of the most popular venues anywhere in the province of Verbania. Hosted in the 14,000 square metre shopping centre alongside fourteen shops, the Astragalo is a venue with a young and creative look that offers a wide range of services, from cafeteria to wine bar and from a restaurant-pizzeria to an evening disco pub offering shows and live music. Inside, it is a modern, well-lit 630 square metre space in which every detail is designed to create a versatile, stimulating and multifunctional ambience. The interior design is based on an uncompromising mix of colours and materials, where strong metallic shades serve as a backdrop to the contrasting coral tones of the walls and the bright orange chairs with their minimal-chic design. The lighting project aims to allow light to interact with the volumes, furnishings and surfaces, transforming them into interior design elements. Light flows over the highly reflecting surface of the floors, consisting of Steelwork ceramic tiles from Ceramica Fioranese, and takes on a bronze sheen, lending fluid continuity to spaces. The glossy and rectified surface finish of the Steelwork series, chosen in an elegant bronze colour, mirrors the interiors and helps make them look larger, thereby providing a valuable contribution to the need to transform spaces.