Using Natural Planting in Venues for a Unique Customer Experience
Towards the end of 2016 we started to see a trend developing for London venues to want an organic, unique look – an attempt to bring a natural look into venues that would otherwise be harsh and geometric.
As Superglue has delivered two of the first large scale examples of this in London, we thought we’d share some of the opportunities it offers and warn of some of the pitfalls to watch out for.
So many venues are in ex-industrial buildings with the usual bare concrete and steel that entails. Irrespective of the undeniable level of ‘soul’ it brings, natural planting can hide brutal architecture and make it a friendlier leisure space.
Similarly, venues often comprise of various distinct areas, be they different rooms, outdoor/indoor spaces, or just different decor. You can use plants to blend the look, providing a more consistent customer experience. At Swingers we used plants to blur the boundaries between the reception and the course, ushering people further into the crazy golf experience.
At Queens, we used climbing plants to make the vast surfaces of the walls and ceiling feel smaller. Despite the huge illuminated logo on the wall behind the ice rink, the space still felt a little bleak. Introducing the climbing ivy breaks up the space and makes the sign more of a centrepiece. The climbers trailing along the beams isn’t an attempt to hide them, but it does draw attention from them and stretch the natural look above the other stark surface in the room – the ice rink itself.
We used real plants at Boulers with great success, but they we were on a rooftop (with daylight and rain) and the pop-up was only running for a week which wasn’t long enough to cause any issues that needed maintenance.
Indoors or for longer-term installations, artificial plants are the key and the single biggest challenge with artificial planting is the fire risk. Ideally, only inherently fire retardant plants should be used, however plants with this certification are limited in selection and often availability. The alternative is to mitigate the risk by spraying the plants with a fire retardant chemical. There are only a couple of chemicals on the market which are appropriate to use with artificial plants, getting the right product is extremely important. Additionally, spraying it is only effective on certain types of leaf fabric – other materials do not soak up the spray effectively, and even those that can be used need to be re-treated periodically to remain safe. Any situation where the plants can be accessed by the public or near lighting/electricity need to be protected.
To dress even a modestly-sized venue requires a significant quantity of artificial plants and there are a finite number of suppliers in the UK. For Swingers we emptied nearly every warehouse in the country of Ivy for example, so significant care needs to be paid to planning and ordering to avoid a shortfall.
It takes a great deal of skill, knowledge and experience to make plants look real and natural. We work with our clients to create a clear vision during the planning stage, including artists impressions, and then engage scenic artists who deal specifically with artificial plants to make the picture come to life.
As with signage and branding where discerning customers want some personality from companies, introducing nature into what has been a largely sterile realm seems to generate a positive response. We’re looking forward to seeing what projects we can cultivate during 2017.