Architecture and Design: A Food-Focussed Interview with NH Architecture

NH Architecture is one of Melbourne’s leading architecture studios and currently they are working on a number of retail precincts where food and hospitality are central to the development. Having partnered with Future Food on a number of projects over the years, we sat down with NH’s Managing Director, Roger Nelson, to talk about his view on food and design and what is considered by an architect when a hospitality precinct is being developed.

Q. Have you seen the purpose of food precincts change over the last 10 years? If so, how?

Food has become central to the retail story ..any place that isn’t doing food will become irrelevant in the long run. It is a reflection of our changing socialising habits that food is the medium of meeting and spending time together and it best suits the notion of casual encounter as well as a heightened awareness of wellbeing…food brings people together and everyone is interested in it and we define our cities, places and spaces with it.

RELATED READING | Food Precincts: The Social Glue of the 21st Century


Q. What design features or considerations do you include to ensure the user experience is always at the centre of your design?

We strongly consider the experience. The theory in hospitality design is focused on the experience and the quality of it in design, product and service. However, retail theory in shopping centres can get stuck on designing around movement and getting people through it which misses the opportunity for lingering, creating a experiential space and getting repeat business. So, we have to be sure to not apply the retail theory too heavily to the food spaces within these areas. It should be about creating ‘a place to be’ rather than ‘a place to move through’,

Plenty Valley Westfield by NH Architecture  (image via Scentre Group)

Plenty Valley Westfield by NH Architecture (image via Scentre Group)


Q. Where do you find hospitality spaces most often fall down? (i.e. over design, lack of space)

The best operations happen in often the most unlikely spaces. The secret is the operator first and foremost when it comes to the architecture of a successful food precinct, then come all the other things. A close second is quality of product, then service and then look and feel. I’ve stated them in order however, today you need it all. As architects, we look after the designing of the space to meet its function however, the other factors are so key that working with hospitality teams such as Future Food makes it a holistic and collaborative effort to build a successful destination.


Q. What has been your favourite hospitality-based project to date? was a big moment for us and showed how to distill the essence of a vibrant city into a new precinct of the CBD.

RELATED READING | The Art of Placemaking in Hospitality

QV replicating Melbourne's infamous laneway culture  (image via Spacebook)

QV replicating Melbourne's infamous laneway culture (image via Spacebook)


Q. Where do you seek your inspiration when it comes to designing these spaces?

The older operations and traditional worlds…as well as the younger vanguard of architects and designers.


Q. From your experiences of working with Future Food, what do you think are the key benefits of hospitality consultants and architects working collaboratively on food precinct design and masterplanning?

Prevention is better than cure….plan and you will succeed … bring the creatives together and you will benefit ..together we can know everything and solve any design challenge. Working with Future Food has ensured all our designs have integrated the most important parts of food precinct function to ensure a space not only appears well executed but also works like a well oiled machine for operators, centre management and users alike. 

Woodpecker Hill in Parnell, NZ  (image via The Denizen)

Woodpecker Hill in Parnell, NZ (image via The Denizen)


Q. Where was the last great place you ate which combined good food and good design?

…..Auckland, Auckland. Woodpecker Hill in Parnell has been designed as a smart, casual and exciting place to be in to match the Asian-fusion cuisine on offer.

Roger Nelson NH Architecture Future Food

Roger has built a highly regarded national profile as an urban designer and architect. He is recognised in the industry for his ability to deliver a quality design outcome whilst managing the commercial imperatives of a project. Roger’s expertise has been further acknowledged through his appointment as Chairman of the Melbourne Retail Advisory Board between 2006 and 2010.