In Use - Project

RSL Frankston

When it comes to RSL venues, the name BSPN Architecture is often attached.

Responsible for numerous RSL locations, including Box Hill, Bendigo, Noble Park and Sunshine, this Melbourne-based practice, which also has a Queensland office, is now turning its focus to other RSLs including Watsonia, Dandenong, Epping and Heidelberg. 

“They’re extremely durable and there is an extensive range, from furniture upholstery to curtains,”

Amelia Cloney

Rather than simply ‘rolling out’ a formulaic design that is stamped onto each, BSPN Architecture looks carefully at each site, the demographics and the specific brief attached to each new RSL project. “You could say there’s a ‘thread’ running through each one, one that ties into the story of the Anzacs, rather than the individual designs,” says Mike Chandler, director of BSPN Architecture’s Melbourne office, who was also project manager for delivering the concept for the future refurbishment of the RSL in Frankston. “Each RSL club has a point of difference. We had to respond to our client’s brief as much as the local community it serves,” says Amelia Cloney, a designer at the practice, who worked closely with interior designer Laurence Clement and Mike Chandler. 
As with many of the RSL clubs, the Frankston RSL has been added to over the years with sometimes minor, other times major, renovations. The problem with the way it stands at present is that there are a number of disparate function rooms with very little flow or connection between them. Located over a kilometre from the beach, nestled within a suburban rather than beach context, creating an appropriate response relied on capturing a sense of place that responded to the local community. One of the sources of inspiration for the client came from a café/restaurant/garden store in Alexandria, Sydney. “There’s a strong use of natural materials and a colour palette that responded to its verdant setting,” says Cloney, who was conscious of this venue, but keen to present something here that didn’t simply replicate something else. 
The Frankston RSL club refurbishment, expected to commence early next year, explores the idea of sea to shore. Subtle blue tones from the nearby Port Phillip Bay to mossy greens and ochres will appear, along with the use of natural materials wherever possible. “Fire regulations prevent us from using all natural wood, so we’ve steered towards a number of laminates, and of course, fire resistant fabrics, such as those from Zepel,” says Cloney, who often uses Zepel for projects such as the RSL clubs. “They’re extremely durable and there is an extensive range, from furniture upholstery to curtains,” she adds. The velvet-like touch of many of the Zepel fabrics also appeals to Cloney, who shares a long history with Zepel. “I sold Zepel in an interior design store in Canberra when I first graduated.”
BSPN Architecture’s design for the Frankson RSL will include a substantial new wing at the front of the building, with a distinctive porte cochere. An extension of roughly the same proportions will be added to the rear. A new lobby forms part of the design, considerably wider and more impressive that what currently stands. Illuminated by a skylight above, the lobby will include a reception area that leads to a generous gallery. “History forms an important part of the RSL culture, so it’s important to create a receptacle that allows for memorabilia to be proudly displayed,” says Chandler, pointing out the built-in display cases in the gallery that form part of this design. 
Pivotal to the design is a garden-style pavilion loosely divided by screens that evoke the sense of a greenhouse. The glass roof adds to this alfresco ambience. There’s also a glass-roofed area beyond with its own pop-up style food store. As well as these offerings, there’s the main sports bar, with its black ceiling and exposed services. “This area has a strong industrial aesthetic,” says Cloney, who was also mindful of including a variety of seating arrangements, from high benches to booths, with built-in banquette-style. Each area will feature its own palette, with Zepel’s velvet-like suede, such as ‘Baresque’, used for the loose and built-in furniture.
For hospitality, an area in which BSPN Architecture specialises, the main issue is one of maintenance and durability. “This furniture needs to be extremely robust and easy to clean, whether it’s from beer or from food spillage,” says Cloney, who also understands the importance of making interiors not only look good, but also feel great to the touch, whether it’s a suede or even a textured vinyl. “We’re interested in giving texture and life to a project. And here, it’s not like it’s your own house: in hospitality venues, fabrics literally get ‘hammered’,” says Cloney. “Fabrics and surfaces need to be washed on a daily basis,” she adds.
Text by Stephen Crafti.