Grand Pacific, UK

May 3, 2017

Formally Manchester’s historic Reform club, Grand Pacific was the perfect venture to restore the building to its former Victorian glory. Taking inspiration from the grand colonial hotels of South East Asia, the restaurant feels timeless, classic, yet very contemporary.

Built in 1870 -1871 the Venetian gothic style building was a former Victorian Gentleman’s club. More recently home to Room restaurant and bar, Living Ventures took over the property in 2015 and handed the brief to interior designer Michelle Derbyshire who had previously worked with them designing restaurants Australasia and Artisan.

Derbyshire was wholly immersed in the project from conception, taking on more of a creative director role, designing everything down to the uniforms, overseeing the graphic design for the menus and the website, she even had a part in curating the sound for the space.

“I felt like the marketplace was flooded with restaurants and bars and Manchester really needed something with a point of difference, something classic and old school, an establishment that feels like its been here forever,” she tells darc.

Referencing Raffles flagship Singapore hotel, Derbyshire wanted to bring a relaxed, colonial feel to the grand Victorian dining room, citing the building’s beautiful arched, floor to ceiling windows as inspiration.

Climb the grand oak staircase towards the first floor entrance and you’re greeted by a vast chandelier made up of antique Chinese birdcages housing filament lamps, adorned with ivy and finished off with life-size majestic looking peacocks. The installation, greenery and huge mirrors give the space a menagerie feel, Derbyshire’s nod to the Palm courts of yore.

“It’s a transitional space, so I wanted it to have an impact, I wanted people to stop and explore it a little more, wonder what was going on and what was to come further on in the dining area,” she says.

Enter the historic dining room and immediately you’re drawn to the spectacular bespoke palm chandelier that overhangs the 25 seat long bar. Born from Derbyshire’s love of 1950s toleware chandeliers, she designed the piece right down to the ornate finishings and lamps, collaborating with Tyson Lighting to make the vision a reality.

Luke Artingsall, Lighting Design Director of Tyson Lighting explains the process: “The chandelier was hand fabricated and individual leaves were laser cut and hand formed to make each of the large palms, which array from the central clad stem structure. Various samples and leaf options were manufactured and presented to Michelle as part of the development process and the final chandelier was constructed and fabricated in Tyson’s Blackburn headquarters then broken down in component form for construction onsite.

“In this day and age, objects of this stature which, celebrate hand craftsmanship are few and far between, I expect the chandelier will go down in history as an iconic piece for Grand Pacific and Manchester. The design is just timeless.”

The chandelier isn’t the only lighting feature in the spacious dining room. Separating the bar from the dining area are two, 5.5 metre screens, replicas of the building’s window arches. The screens are lit by amber tinted bespoke, cut crystal decanters; something Derbyshire describes as very “English and old school service based.”

In a nod to the building’s previous life in the city’s financial district Derbyshire took further design inspiration for the screens from an old Chinese abacus. “I wanted the lighting to read at the same level of warmth as you look across the space. We have a lot of grey skies in Manchester and I wanted to counteract that through the light and furnishings,” she explains.

Derbyshire’s vision for the decanter screens was a particular challenge for Tyson Lighting: “We had to overcome detailing issues related to fixings, wiring and also the sheer size of the structures,” says Artingstall.

The decanters were fixed bottom-to-bottom creating symmetrically lit features on each rod structure. Tyson had to work to extremely tight tolerances with this feature and as such designed and fabricated each rod to the millimetre.

The Grade II listing of the property also restricted any architectural lighting or altering of the walls, to combat this problem – suspended from the truss, above the fixed banquet seating area – each table has an individual mirrored disc drop pendant, helping to lower the ambient light source whilst creating the perception of a lower level and more intimate space. Tala filament lamps create a sense of warmth and are set to a comfortable dimming level, ensuring the decorative aspect of the filament is visually exposed without causing an uncomfortable glare.

“In an ideal world we would have had wall lights instead of the candle sconces,” says Derbyshire  “I would have put pendants over all of the tables which would have looked wonderful silhouetted against the windows, but I couldn’t do that, so we used the existing truss and added a couple of struts, using par cans to light the two seater tables from above”.

The height of the space was also a key challenge for Tyson when it came to implementing the two seater table lighting: “To achieve the contrasting pools of focused light and pin spotting to tables we needed to ensure the specification of equipment was tried and tested. ETC Source Four mini LED gobo projectors were specified to provide punch and accuracy across the 5,000mm height says Artingstall.

“The gobo projectors allowed us to focus and defocus the beams giving both sharp edged pools of light. In order to achieve a very narrow pinspot of light onto the tables, bespoke ROSCO gobos discs were designed and tested to ensure the diameter of the pool of light worked with the table.”

The combination of both decorative and architectural lighting was key to the overall success of the lighting design and the ambience and mood it’s created within the space. Visually the decorative table lamps and features, create pockets of shimmering objects across the view of the space, however it was also important, that this level of low level ambience was supplemented by contrasting pin spots of light, particularly on the tables within the space. The contrast of ambient diffused light, and stronger pools of focused light, really set the tone for night environment. The high intensity pools of light worked incredibly well when highlighting the table dressings, creating glistening and specular reflections across the horizontal surfaces.

It’s clear that the lighting in every aspect of the restaurant, inside and out, was a big consideration for Derbyshire; even the bathrooms have a thoughtful, classic scheme. Making use of Jim Lawrence brass wall scallop lights and soft architectural lighting, when inside the cubicle through the slotted louvre, layers of gold light filter through.

Given the building’s height and first floor location, Derbyshire was very keen on gaining awareness of the space outside, mindful of how long the building had been empty.

As such, RGWA LED projectors were specified for the external windows reveal lighting to draw the gaze upwards and towards the first floor restaurant. Compact LED spotlights were specified with narrow beam optics and finished in the A stone RAL colour to blend with the building’s natural stone façade. The system has the capability to be programmed to provide dynamic animations and lighting sequences via an individually addressable DMX system. Warm sunset animations with pastel tones were used to amplify the conceptual idea of grand old colonial hotels of South East Asia and the sunsets that fall upon them.

“The lighting system was used so we could emulate a sunset,” says Derbyshire.  “I wanted it to radiate gold, through to dark red and back again. We illuminated the building’s arches, so you’d pick up on all of the high level lighting, looking up from the street below, you see the screen, the chandelier, the sconces, just layer upon layer of light. For me lighting is fundamental to design, you can have the most beautiful space and kill it with the wrong lighting.”

Artingstall cites Tyson’s collaboration with Derbyshire as a huge achievement in the company’s history of bespoke manufacturing.

“Grand Pacific stands out in the crowd; it’s a classically lit space, with the backdrop of the beautiful historic architecture. The low-level table lighting creates a real sense of intimacy within the space, similar to a scene from a bustling 1920’s atmospheric table lit restaurant. Even with the architectural heights, your eye is naturally drawn across the low level perspective of the interior, capturing the different intensities of light and shade on the horizontal surfaces. With the backdrop of the arched windows and the dark wood materials, this really does amplify the warmth and contrast of the lit environment.

“It was a pleasure working alongside the visionary designer Michelle Derbyshire on this project. Her enthusiasm and attention to detail was infectious, and undoubtedly improved our game to make this one of the best projects we have designed and delivered to date.”