Monday, 20 February 2012

Pub Design


A mate of mine was clearing his late mother's house and came across a book he thought I'd like. Too true I would. It is an unusual "beer book" as it is written by a pub architect and gives a great insight into how breweries designed pubs, their thinking behind designs and a lot of "do's and don'ts.

Written by Ben Davis, the book, The Traditional English Pub is dedicated to "the memory of the Architects Department, Ind Coope Ltd, disbanded on 3oth May 1980" and was published in 1981. The author doesn't confine himself to architecture, as there are chapters on Understanding the Pub, and sub chapters on breweries, licensees and some case studies. His observations on the "Essence of Pubness" are simple and compelling. According to Davis there are five essentials that a customer consciously or sub consciously seeks in a pub. He likes to feel welcome. He likes to feel at home. He likes to give and enjoy friendliness. He likes a good hearted atmosphere and importantly, "he likes a sense of continuity."  He goes on to explain how a good pub architect will try and make these qualities easier to achieve by good design, whether by new build or refurbishment.  At the end of the book, written by Frank Bradbeer, there is a Pub Design Guide which explains the steps from concept to completion.

While some of this is pretty dated, it is a simply fascinating read and takes me back, in my mind to the 1980's, but in a good way.  It is also interesting that the author determines (and I agree with him) that the pub is a English rather than British institution.  As Davis puts it "The pub is English.  The Scots drink in bars, and the Welsh, bless them, will drink anywhere.  The Irish had the good sense to hold on to the pubs the English gave them, but their native manner of drinking is in grocers' shops." Perhaps these observations may not meet with unqualified agreement, but I reckon I can see what he means to a fair extent.

The book does hark back to a lost era and clearly Davis was an Ind Coope man through and through, but in some ways, reading it now, that is its strength and a reminder, that contrary to popular opinion, pubs didn't just happen. They were often designed by very clever men and indeed, as the author makes clear, women.

The author on handpumps: "they have a sculptural strength and elegance which, even regarded as abstract form, gives delight."

The Traditional English Pub.  A way of Drinking is published by the Architectural Press: London. ISBN 085139 055 2

11 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

Hardware shops too...

Cooking Lager said...

What's the gist of "Distinctions Between Bars" ?

John Medd said...

The Irish, of course, had bars or tap rooms in the back of shoe shops, grocers, hardware shops...

Curmudgeon said...

Purely by coincidence, I happened to dig this very book out only a couple of days ago. I would say most modern pub design, regrettably, chucks his precepts right out of the window.

The particular reason I looked at it was to dig out this quotation, about the Royal Hotel in Cardiff:

"It was here that I first became aware of the South Welshman's peculiar dedication to beer, as a pastime. Three male customers ordered three consecutive rounds of pints. When the first man ordered his second (the fourth) round I realised that these three were stuck for rest of the evening. In London, where they treat drinking as a link activity, incidental to some other occupation, that would have been the moment for moving on, the signal for dispersal to homes, restaurants or theatres. Immediately I felt more at home in Cardiff! It is not so much that the South Welsh drink to excess - rather it is a humorously sly but wholehearted approach to the enjoyment of drinking that endears them to me. Of all my good drinking friends over the years, in other places, I think a majority must have been from that area."

Tandleman said...

Cookie. There is a lot to summarise, but each was designed to attract customers who otherwise would not have felt inclined to go pubbing. There's a lot more though, but that'll put you on.

Cooking Lager said...

Ah, you mean the discerning types that prefer "awesome" grog at 6quid a third that's been expertly matched up to a sausage or some cheddar?

RedNev said...

Someone gave me a second-hand copy of this book last year, and written on the inside cover is "Bury Grammar (Girls) Art Room". I find that interesting in itself.

By concidence, I was dipping into it just this morning, looking at the five essentials and thinking I might use that some time in an article (appropriately credited of course). It is an interesting book, and while much has dated, I think a lot of it could still be very relevant to today's pub owners - should they decide to invest in their properties.

Tandleman said...

Cookie. No I don't mean that.

Bailey said...

It's always interesting to discover that an Olde Worlde Pub was refurbished in 1994: "Ye olde smuggler's den? Yeah, that was the all-you-can-eat salad bar and creperie until last year. We bought the furniture pre-knackered and all the sailing knick-knacks from a firm in Luton."

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

How does one a really really really long ways away get ahold of a copy of this?

Curmudgeon said...

Try looking on Abebooks.

Several for sale there at reasonable prices.