PizzaExpress Richmond by Ab Rogers 29.10.10

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image: PR/Chris Tubbs

tRestaurant chain PizzaExpress has been experimenting with sound following research that highlights the disruptive effect of background noise on diners. The popular chain has created a "living lab" in Richmond: a restaurant space dedicated to conversation.

A team of designers and acoustic experts are behind the project, led by retail and exhibition designer Ab Rogers. A series of sound-absorbing panels hang from the restaurant's ceiling and prevent excessive noise from affecting customers' conversations. Meanwhile, parabolic booths suspended above the tables ensure that diner's voices are heard crisply and clearly. The effect is a calmer, more intimate atmosphere.

The aim is to reduce the reverberation time of sound within the restaurant. Reverberation time, roughly understood, is the time taken for sound to die away after its source has ceased to produce it. In terms of conversation, a greater reverberation time is a disadvantage: the reflected sound of a syllable may confuse those that follow. PizzaExpress claim to have reduced reverberation time in their restaurant by 50 percent.

But the innovations have not been limited to combating noise levels. Rogers has introduced redesigned, colourful interiors and made provision for diners to control both the ambient light and music of their booth. Tables are now outfitted with buttons to alert staff to diners wishing to be served or ask for the bill.

The restaurant is keen to emphasise that this is no sea change: the designers were not tasked with overhauling the chain. Instead, their brief was to "not to lose what made PizzaExpress special, but to build on it and give it a new twist," says the company.

 

Words

Oli Stratford

quotes story

A series of sound-absorbing panels hang from the restaurant's ceiling and prevent excessive noise from affecting customers' conversations

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