Layers of theatre and a dash of mischief

Layers of theatre and a dash of mischief

Conran and Partners were this year’s designers for The Sleep Event’s widely anticipated pop-up drinks bar; the social hub of Europe’s leading exhibition and conference for the global hotel design industry.
Our Drink Me Bar design explored the ‘Wonder Tales’ theme uniting different elements of the event this year and drew on the more surreal aspects of Alice in Wonderland as well as other, darker, tales from the German childhood of project director Tina Norden. 

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“The design team was immediately excited by the limitless possibilities for interpretation of the ‘Wonder Tales’ theme, which invites an abstract approach. Alice and her adventures in Wonderland soon came to mind. These all began with her decision to obey the “Drink Me” command on the potion bottle, which sent Alice on all sorts of adventures involving unexpected perspectives, reflections and ‘upside-down-ness’.
As the bar at Sleep is essentially a two-day pop-up, we could afford to create something far more ethereal and fragile, in keeping with Alice’s journey, and also go for immediate, dramatic impact.” Tina Norden

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As hospitality designers, we are often responsible for the design of a complete hotel environment, from guest rooms to the restaurants, bars and other public areas. These need to work together as a ‘whole’, requiring a strong narrative to be carried through all aspects of the design, often with theatrical or story-telling elements. It is this approach that has influenced the design of the Drink Me Bar.

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“Bars and restaurants are essentially stages on which people interact, and where small dramas and stories are played out”, explains Tina. “Guests want an element of glamour and theatre, in a place which is ‘other’ but in which they can also feel comfortable and at ease. With the Drink Me Bar, we aimed to create layers of theatricality, but with unmistakable glamour.” 

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But Tina Norden is less interested in an anodyne, glamourized version of Alice than in the story’s darker side, as interpreted in the Robert Wilson and Tom Waits interpretation of the fairytale, which premiered in Hamburg in 1992 and made a huge impression on the young Tina. As she explains:
“The production used stunning visual tableaux, varied musical styles, colourful and stylized costumes and evocative lighting to tell the story of Alice in a new way, which played with different realities.
With the Drink Me Bar we have approached the brief as one would the design of a theatrical prop, which gives an impression of permanence but actually has limited use. We wanted to challenge the familiar concept of what a ‘bar’ should be, in the same way that this production explored the deeper, and darker, themes of Alice.” 

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The story of Alice in Wonderland resonated particularly with our design team; Lewis Carroll’s timeless fairy tale is 150 years old this year, and Conran and Partners is celebrating its own milestone, the completion of their ‘One Hundredth Bar and Restaurant’ with the recent opening of D&D London’s latest new restaurant German Gymnasium, King’s Cross.

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Photography by Richard John Seymour and Emir Hasham

Wall Art by Muzéo Iconographic Design http://pro.muzeo.com/fr @MuzeoParis

Lighting by lighting consultants IntoLighting www.into.co.uk @intolighting

Candles by Ingo Maurer www.ingo-maurer.com/en @Ingo_Maurer

Mirror Ceiling by 3A Composites www.3acomposites.com @3aComposite

Music and Sounds by Music Concierge and Clear AV www.musicconcierge.co.uk www.getclearav.co.uk @MusicConcierge_ @ClearavLTD

Bespoke Furniture by Parla Design www.parladesign.com @Parla_Design

Flooring by Ege Carpets www.egecarpets.com @egeCarpetsltd

Speakers by Bose www.bose.co.uk @bose

Wood Expertise by Ligna Group – Contract Furniture Experts

Project Managed by St James Design Interiors LTD www.stjamesdesigninteriors.com

In association with Sleeper Magazine www.sleepermagazine.com