How Location, History and Art help create design identity.

The tone for casual dining in the UK was set by Peter Boizot in 1965, when Pizza Express (owning the first pizza oven in London) opened its fashionable doors with decor by artist Enzo Apicella. Today Leicestershire based Creed Design has been designing Pizza Express restaurants since 1997. Creative Director, Andrew French talks to us on the importance of art, preserving history and moving with the times.

…on the importance of art

“One of the ways in which Pizza Express avoids repetition and over-familiarity apparent in some large brand formats is through its selected use of artwork. This is alongside our preference as designers for each site to reflect its location and the nature of the building.

There are some key elements to each Pizza Express that re-occur in each site. For regular customers this provides reassurance and consistency. The design, including artwork ensures that each restaurant retains an identity of its own within the wider business.

The best artwork solutions are tightly integrated into the location. For High Wycombe for example we were able to use wall cladding with CNC cut illustrations of iconic furniture. Providing a link to local industry and heritage in a form that used the same materials and techniques”.

…on preserving the essence of Enzo Apicella 

“One of the things that comes across in Enzo’s work is a rather mischievous individuality. I never had the chance to meet him but we have revisited his work many times over the years and it seems to me that he enjoyed what he did at Pizza Express and was given a fairly free rein. Whilst his drawings and paintings were exuberant and often insightful, it is interesting how restrained the early interiors were and pared back to some key elements around the kitchen, the lighting and often a limited palette of robust materials”

“The design of the restaurants are constantly being re-evaluated and since 1965 casual dining as a category has arrived and evolved significantly. Some of the key elements mentioned earlier from the Enzo period will no doubt remain in some form (lighting of tables for example) but they are constantly challenged and reviewed”.

… on current projects

“The last two sites have some things in common but in design terms very different drivers.

“In Limerick the Milano site is on the edge of a shopping centre that though not large, appears to enjoy high footfall and a broad catchment area. Our approach was to take the retail element – mainly fashion brands – and identify local links and involvement. Strong fashion links with Limerick School of Art and Design for example led us to approach local designers and businesses. With another site in the town centre, this interior had to be markedly different and we deliberately chose a more colourful route to meeting the challenges of the site”.

“With Bromley we were keen to stand apart from the neighbours and provide a unique interior”.

“We used walnut and porcelain to celebrate wonderful retail environments from the 1950s. Antique mirrors reflect warm light from the bespoke lighting. Quality detailing runs through the project from the stitching details on the banquette to the back-lit kitchen counter with its punched brogue pattern”

“Artwork in the restaurant is inspired by Bromley’s longstanding connection with footwear retailer Russell and Bromley. It celebrates the design and craft of footwear manufacture. Russell and Bromley was started in 1873, when George Bromley, a shoemaker married his employer Albion Russell’s daughter Elizabeth. It was their son Fredrick who moved operations from Eastbourne to Bromley in 1905. Vintage shoes and advertising from the brand’s history provided a rich source of reference for the featured paintings and prints”.

… on challenges and adaptability

“Challenges are inevitable, though largely a result of changes to the site in our work for Pizza Express. Sometimes developments are delayed and thinking moves on. Bromley in fact was delayed by nearly three years. When it looked like re-starting we looked at the work we had done and thought we should review it in the light of recent trends and some new finishes we had been considering. Often the local competition is different too so this is also taken into account. The second scheme was better as a result, more unique and more appropriate to this location”.

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