Speys food court is the latest addition to the Jaarbeurs event centre in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Founded in 1916 to support and stimulate trade and industry in the area, while improving prosperity – today, the event space has the same values and aims to inspire, motivate and activate trade partners by enabling valuable meetings – while bringing people, markets, traders and producers together.
Coinciding with its 100-year anniversary celebrations, the Jaarbeurs building has been extended to Speys food court, designed by Amsterdam-based UXUS studio, along with a state-of-the-art cinema complex, owned by Kinepolis.
Jaarbeurs is rooted in the exchange of goods and interaction of people within the Dutch industry, and Speys – an old Dutch word meaning food – has become the place where different worlds connect and meet. The food court is a fast-casual dining experience with an industrious market hall feel, offering freshly prepared foods, stimulating encounters and engagement – acting as a meeting space between the cinema and existing exhibition halls.
UXUS was briefed to create a unique hospitality experience with its own identity within the double-height space that lies below the new cinema complex. Seating 520 people indoors, the standout features of the space are, without doubt, the geometric canopies, which break up the hall into food zones and create the Speys signature look.
“We wanted to play with the height of the space,” says Bart Lans, Architect and Senior Designer at UXUS. “The client really wanted to use the space as one of the main attractions for the area – not just for those visiting the exhibition centre, but for the cinema-goers and local residents as well – it had to be eye-catching. Immediately we had the idea of developing these huge canopies above the food counters that are colour coded dependent on the food offer. As the idea developed, the canopies became very strongly lit elements within the space that change light intensity throughout the day and accentuate the mood – at night they become these huge lanterns glowing over the space.”
The identity of Speys was very much driven by a link back to the history and rich visual heritage of the venue, Lans explains. The team played with pattern and scale in the design, using a selection of beautiful archive Jaarbeurs posters as their starting point. “We took the colours and geometric patterns from the posters and used them as a directive throughout the whole food market,” he says. “The posters informed the graphic identity of Speys, using vintage typography in the different zones and an Art Deco feel has been achieved with old cinematic lighting and geometric patterns.”
“The biggest trait of the space was its high ceiling meaning anything we were going to do would become dwarfed if we weren’t careful,” says Oliver John Palmer Michell, UXUS Chief Creative Officer & Architect. “We were able to use the height to create these canopy gestures and use the light to really create drama in the space.
“Given that there’s a cinema in the complex, there’s a mirrored sense of theatricality in the food court, but what’s also nice is that the height allowed us to create a mezzanine level so you can look out onto the food hall with all the canopy lanterns floating around you. You wouldn’t normally get such drama in a food court – it allows for a different perspective and it’s nice to sit up there among all the lights.”
Elsewhere in the food court, pendants and table lighting are used to bring the scale of the space down, making it more of an intimate experience for the diners. “We integrated spherical pendants into the ceiling to reinforce that Art Deco feeling,” says Lans. “These feature throughout the space – above the mezzanine, within the booths and so on, they are an additional lighting highlight.”
“It changes the scale of the space,” adds Palmer Michell. “Because everything else is so big and bold, the pendant lights bring everything down to a more human level. It helps to create a cosier environment and a glow that’s really important and something more akin to big brassiere eateries.
“The pendants are also directional in some ways, they help establish where the seating zones are and you can clearly identify where each space starts and ends. It’s such a long space that the lanterns and pendants all work to direct you to where you should be going.”
As a central meeting point for visitors to the cinema and the exhibition centre, there are two entrances to the Speys food court. The lighting design provides a change of pace from the hectic environment of the trade show floor and bright, dramatic feel of the cinema entrance. The lighting becomes much more subdued with pools of light from the lanterns and lots of multi use of light, creating a very warm, ambient feel. “There’s a distinct change of mood, which we think is very appropriate as this is a space where you can relax and dine and spend more time,” says Palmer Michell.
Reflecting on the project, for Lans, while the Jaarbeurs had lots of similarities to other projects UXUS has worked on in terms of the multidisciplinary nature of the venue, the interior design and the branding – everything driven by the architecture, this project was also unique in that UXUS was involved in every key element. “This isn’t something that always happens,” he says. “This is always the ambition of course, but it doesn’t always happen that way and I think it worked out very well in the end.
“The scale of this project is also important to mention. For a food hall, it really is quite impressive. It had its challenges but then that’s also where some of our inspiration came from.”
“From a design perspective there has been lots of attention paid to multi mogul seating,” says Palmer Michell. “There’s lots of different types being used – booths, two-seaters, high stools and so on. So during a big trade fair you can imagine people breaking out and using areas as meeting spaces, versus people coming in the morning and having breakfast, then again in the evening the space is used for dinner before heading to the cinema. It’s a great use of the space.”
Thanks to a strong design brief, the lighting at Jaarbeurs is carefully considered and directional, working in tandem with the overall interior design to provide a welcome break and change of pace to its surrounding offerings. Designed in collaboration with food and beverage concept developers Conceptional, who worked on the menu, back of house, customer experience and flow of the space, Speys is a modern reflection of the Jaarbeurs’ heritage as a trade fair for the Dutch industry.