Studio North adds plywood barrel vaults to Business & Pleasure bar

A barrel-vaulted ceiling covers this cosy cocktail bar in Calgary, Alberta which locally based Studio North designed as a contemporary take on a speakeasy.

Business & Pleasure is tucked away between historic brick buildings on a back lane in the Canadian city’s Inglewood neighbourhood, just a few blocks from Studio North‘s office space.

Side view of barrel-vaulted plywood ceiling
A vaulted plywood ceiling contrasts with the black interior of the bar

“The location and scale of the Business & Pleasure bar space immediately reference visions of the iconically intimate and secluded speakeasy from last century,” said lead designers Damon Hayes Couture and Hayden Pattullo.

“However, this transformation sought to recreate the speakeasy’s quaint and classic qualities using contemporary methods of parametric design, digital fabrication, and material experimentation.”

Patterned plywood extends down wall to tabletop
The fir plywood is CNC cut to allow it to bend

Hidden at the back of a cafe, Studio North’s take on prohibition-era drinking establishments features a dark interior, with many of the furniture pieces and surfaces in black.

In contrast, fir plywood is shaped into barrel vaults of different widths that run the length of the narrow 350-square-foot (32.5-square-metre) space.

View up to plywood ceiling
Vaults of different widths run the length the ceiling

The material is kerfed to allow it to bend, forming a cut-out pattern that adds a translucent quality to the wood.

“Like clouds, the geometry and pattern vary slightly throughout the room to create unique areas and experiences of moving through it,” said Studio North.

Ceiling detail above glass window
Paper lanterns hang from the wood vaults, which are suspended from steel ribs

The vaults are suspended from a series of steel ribs, and some panels are held in place with magnets – a system that Studio North prototyped at 1:1 scale and built in-house.

Parametric modelling and computer numerically controlled (CNC) cutting were used to produce the desired effect.

“The pattern of the ceiling kerfing changes using a parametric image map to add and subtract bridge tabs, creating more grid interruption around the seated areas,” the designers said.

In places, the plywood extends down from the ceiling onto the walls, forming panels that touch the tabletops and shelving in recesses.

Black barn door with vertical gaps
A custom black barn door separates the bar from a cafe at the front

The same material forms a custom barn door separating the cafe from the bar, which is painted black and allows guests a peek at the back space through the thin vertical gaps.

Globe-shaped paper lanterns hand from the ceiling to bathe the space in a warm, ambient glow.

Wide view of bar and seating area
The bar is designed to evoke speakeasies from a century ago

Artworks and a selection of vintage items are displayed on the walls and shelves, connecting the contemporary interior to the heyday of speakeasies.

Studio North is a design-build studio that more commonly works on residential projects, such as a laneway house in Calgary that the team outfitted with a dog nook and a fireman’s pole.

The photography is by Hayden Pattullo and Damon Hayes Couture.

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