Old Elephant House by Studio South
Opinion by Richard Baird
Old Elephant House is a new brasserie and courtyard bar in the former elephant enclosure at Auckland Zoo. It offers an à la carte menu and set three-course meals made up of light and elegant dishes. It is a building that is distinct in its proportions and location, with tall doors and windows from which to hear the distant calling siamang gibbons. Taking cues from the animals of the zoo and their jungle habitats, and with a mind towards a relaxed environment for family and friends, Studio South developed an illustrative collage of exotic motifs, cropped across menus and costers, and transitioning into a space designed by Izzard by way of hand-painted murals.
It’s a small project with a few but concise assets that play across a number of different surfaces and contexts, and link brassie the space with free moving elements of design such as menus, coasters and sandwich boards.
The illustrative work is the most immediate expression and is beautifully composed with a colour palette and use of form that has a something of a mid-century quality to it yet feels thoroughly contemporary. There is a pleasant mix of colour and shape contrast, balance and movement to keep it interesting, working equally well cropped into coasters, as a frame for the menu or blown up and set apart as murals in space.
Where illustration has a life and a strong immediate jungle character, the accompanying logotype is a little more nuanced but thoughtful in its resolution of a playful trunk-like baseline that guides the old-world qualities of a slab-serif around the robust height of a condensed sans-serif. The three cues; trunk, animal and histrionic component, are neatly woven together. The balance of subtle play and typographical elegance is well-managed, tied into illustration by way of a deep jungle green colour and broadened out into separate functional elements that include headings and text that divide content across menus.
It is a small project, with some simple techniques; a graphic immediacy and warmth alongside a sophistication and allusion, nicely weighted throughout. The jungle illustrative motif and approach to logo find a balance between a youthful joy and an elegance that are well-suited to a smart family-friendly brasserie and its menu. More work by Studio South on BP&O.
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