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The Guild: Designing the most dramatic F&B concept in Dubai

Architect duo David Archer and Julie Humphryes talk about The Guild, Dubai’s latest F&B concept at an architectural level, including the culinary design brief behind the work

The Guild: Designing the most dramatic F&B concept in Dubai

There was certainly some bewilderment when London-based architect duo David Archer and Julie Humphryes met with Chef Tom Arnel at the gritty and industrial Tom&Serg.

The agenda was straightforward – it was to discuss the Chef’s idea for a new restaurant. Frankly, a restaurant that will not only reflect the vibrancy and dynamism of Dubai’s social character, but also add a landmark to the heart of the Emirate. The vision was to create an original design with a fresh section of architectural novelty that follows one immersive scene with a succeeding class of ideas.

David Archer distinctly remembers that Tom was adamant about not having his gastronomic wonderland resemble anything European, or any other style for that matter. The impression that Tom had was that Dubai was saturated with businesses that replicated cultural models from abroad, and it was his intention to create something that was ‘indigenous to the city’.

For three years, David and Julie worked on the unbending culinary brief, on designing and delivering an F&B concept that serves its breakfast, lunch, and dinner options at the same time, albeit in separate venues with dramatic names.

The Guild: Designing the most dramatic F&B concept in Dubai

Facing the Stage

The Guild is set in a 20,000 square foot-area within the ICD Brookfield Place tower, making itself at home at the DIFC address next to other premium F&B offerings.

Archer explained, “When we saw the nature of the site, the size and scale of the building, the transport connections, the mixed-use development, and the greenery, we thought it was emblematic of what we thought of as the future of the modern city in the region. And that for us was the point of departure of the development of the design.”

David and Julie offered a design for the restaurant that was along the lines of a 19th century formal garden that included a theatricality that was analogous to the general structure of a play. During our interview, David took us on a descriptive tour around the sections, or the different acts, subplots, and emotive heights of the restaurant’s synoptic dine-in plan.

From an architectural point of view, the aim here was for Tom’s    Pancakes and Lobster Thermidors to exist within a hierarchy of experiences that engages the main narrative of the play, creating moments of drama and excitement, a building atmosphere, and an overall immersive sense for the clientele.

“But when you’re in any one of these and look across the whole as the restaurant reveals itself, then the drama of the experience can be fully appreciated.”

Humphryes added, “To have a successful venue, you have a kind of central energy, and that might be around the kitchen, or your passage through the space. And because The Guild has so many different eateries within one concept, it was really important to manage the hierarchy as to not divide the energy.”

The Guild: Designing the most dramatic F&B concept in Dubai

One Venue to Rule them All

The initial multi-menu concept started with far more cuisines than what the restaurant serves today, but it was the architectural advice of AHA that gave us the present avant kitchens of The Guild. As recalled by the architects, Tom was fascinated with how the team would develop the project nonetheless.

“He came to London. We visited different factories, joineries, terracotta etc., and he came along the practical delivery part of the project. So the hard work and investment that he put in to the development of the brief was something that we worked with as designers.”

Another creative involvement by the architects was the iconic Rock Pool, and as David Archer detailed its personal and nostalgic origin, he also revealed a departure from conventional practice, and a desire to avoid having it become a static display. And to The Guild’s customers’ delight, the client was eager to give it a central part, praising the architect’s idea to put the ingredients at the forefront.

Archer pointed out, “The creation of this element comes from technology, know-how, in terms of looking after Crustacea, and to a degree, a personal element that Julie and I bring to design as architects.”

The rich context and structural framework of the concept was something that the architects could work with as it offered a respite from the prevalent aesthetic of abstract geometry in Dubai’s modern interior design landscape. “The use of the garden both as a metaphor, and visually as a stimulus for the development of the design was something that ran through all of the different spaces in The Guild.”

With five menus, remarkable decorative elements, and resident entertainers, The Guild welcomes its patrons first into the breakfast and lunch act at The Nurseries and The Potting Shed. Off from there, lie the Rock Pool, rewarding seafood appetites, and the Salon, for open fire grill-and-roast cravings. And just over and behind the dining room ends the culinary play at the Aviary cocktail bar, completing the circle of meals.

Hoping to understand the concept through David Archer’s discerning eyes, we asked him about the course he would recommend for a better-than-most trip to The Guild. His answer: If you see Tom, ask him if he could make you his Chocolate Mousse!