The Living Lab PizzaExpress restaurant, Richmond

The Living Lab PizzaExpress restaurant, Richmond

Client: PizzaExpress
Designer: Ab Rogers
Contractor: Atlas Refurbishment (Northern)
Type of works: supply of circular ceiling canopies.

Circular canopies from Armstrong Ceilings help reduce noise levels by 50% in The Living Lab; the first PizzaExpress restaurant acoustically designed to support having good conversations.

Eighty of Armstrong’s Optima canopies, similar to those used in the Royal Albert Hall, hang from the restaurant ceiling. They absorb and reflect sound, creating a far more peaceful, comfortable environment for diners. The circular, sound-absorbent panels were specially printed in pastel colours to match the colour scheme of The Living Lab.

PizzaExpress set themselves the challenge of reinventing their restaurants for a new era ( and experimented with just about everything, from design and acoustics to service and food.

They wanted to step back and consider how to create stimulating spaces, acoustically designed to support having good conversations. Their mission? Not simply to continue to serve great pizza, but to help feed great conversations, something that’s always been at the heart of the brand, by creating an engaging, versatile environment that would work well for families in the daytime and everyone else at night.

In homage to the spirit of creative collaboration that PizzaExpress founder Peter Boizot took when he opened his first restaurant in Soho in 1965, a talented group of creative thinkers were brought together to conceive the new generation PizzaExpress.

Led by visionary designer Ab Rogers, the team included Italian chefs, a theatre director, a professor of acoustics, the co-founder of, a DJ, a conversation expert and a fashion designer.

At the Richmond restaurant, the 80 Armstrong circular canopies, which echo the shape of the tables and of the pizzas being served, were installed by Atlas Refurbishment (Northern) at varying angles, levels and orientations to disguise services.

The metal frame in the back of the mineral canopies, which absorb sound on the front and on the back, is fixed via aircraft wire to the soffit and is robust enough to allow lights and speakers to be integrated into the panels, making them even more multi-functional.

They have been used in conjunction with domes specially designed by Professor of Acoustics Sergio Luzzi, and designer Dominic Robson which hang over Red-leather dining booths and are designed to take out noise.

These parabolic booths act like mini recording studios, absorbing sound to create intimate acoustic chambers. The domes deflect background noise and contain interior noise, creating a perfect environment for conversation. Diners can also adjust their own personal sound and lighting levels. The reverberation time of sound inside the booths has been reduced by 50%.

Carrie Longton, co-founder of and part of the creative team behind The Living Lab, said: “Lots of people said PizzaExpress traditionally was quite noisy, all that marble, all those tiled floors. Anything that can help with those acoustics is really good.”

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Armstrong World Industries (Ceilings Div)

Armstrong World Industries (Ceilings Div)

Armstrong World Industries Ceilings Division is a worldwide leader in the manufacture and marketing of acoustic ceilings and suspension systems for commercial applications. After more than a century, Armstrong remains a foremost name in the ceilings...
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