Bà Xã is a Vietnamese noodle bar located in Melbourne Airport’s International Terminal, delivering an edgy casual (yes, that’s really a thing) dining experience that goes beyond the norms of a mass-catering establishment. Studio Doherty worked together with Techne Architecture + Interior Design to channel the liveliness of Vietnamese cuisine while providing a distinctly Melbourne twist.
“Bà Xã” means – ‘female village chief’ and paints the picture of a fun, nurturing and strong female character, which naturally needed to come across in our design proposal, as well as addressing the brief – which called for a daring and unexpected aesthetic. The location presented no shortage of challenges – design restrictions, an oddly shaped site, lighting, traffic flow, seating numbers, the need to stand out against competitors and entice customers 24/7, just to name a few.
Our response delivers a boldly feminine aesthetic – a graphic statement of colour and simple forms, attracting passers-by and creating a comfortable space for travellers. Utilising an astute mix of materials – natural stone, leather, OSB board, terrazzo, brass, timber veneer, mirror and mesh, this provided hard-wearing surfaces for a high traffic environment.
Bà Xã demonstrates the significant consideration towards how customers will encounter the space. By creating an ‘always open’ beacon using long suspension lights to provide a welcoming atmosphere 24/7, we could consistently attract a broad range of people. We also created a unique way to display a variety of teas through a dispensary bar and display area for pastries which widened the venue’s ability to cater for every moment throughout the day. The open kitchen design engages diners in the theatre of cooking and on the other side, a practical and uncluttered pass allows staff connection and efficient serving to customers. Practical seating arrangements for travelling families, couples and singles, consideration for bag placement, the ability to dine in relative privacy or people watch are all features we spent a great deal of time refining.
Bà Xã is a sassy and savvy example of innovation, clever spatial planning and attention to detail. Combined with colour, lighting and material choices – these all work together to successfully overcome the limitations, design restrictions and challenges presented by the venue’s very public location. Its daring and unexpected aesthetic clearly stands out amongst the competitors and provides an exciting addition for international travellers.