Fusing the old with the new in Florence Hard Rock project

IT summons up images of classic American rock and roll, but now the Hard Rock Cafe has found a new home only a short distance from some of the greatest achievements of the continental Renaissance – and its thanks to a Yorkshire company.

Fuse, a Leeds-based architectural and interior design firm, worked on the new cafe in Florence, its first major international project.

The cafe is based in the corner of the Piazza della Repubblica in the city best known for the Uffizi Gallery, Michelangelo’s David and for being the home of Niccolò Machiavelli, the 15th century writer whose name has become synonymous with political skulduggery.

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The former cinema, which dates from 1900, has been lovingly transformed into a modern restaurant with many of its features incorporated into the new scheme. Modern LED light fittings sit alongside 70-year-old Murano chandeliers, original marbles and contemporary ceramics.

The venue has more than 200 seats and a stage for live music performances, as well as memorabilia, such as clothing from John Lennon, Mick Jagger and Elton John and guitars from David Bowie and Carlos Santana.

There is also a guitar signed by the design and construction team including the Fuse directors David Matthews and Scott Ryalls.

Fuse was set up by Mr Matthews, Mr Ryalls, Mike Harris and Simon Clarke in September after the group had spent a total of 40 years at architects careyjones.

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Mr Harris and Mr Clarke have worked on some of Leeds’ best-known buildings, including Clarence Dock and Granary Wharf.

Mr Matthews and Mr Ryalls are interiors specialists who led the team which designed the award winning office of GHD, the private equity-backed hairstyling brand, which is based at Bridgewater Place.

They have also worked around the world and it was their work in the US that led to the link-up with Hard Rock, which is based in Orlando, Florida.

Mr Harris said: “Our team has huge experience and genuine skills in both architecture and interior design and we regard both as equally important. All our projects get the benefit of both skill sets.

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“We don’t have fancy offices or non-executive directors. Our overheads are low and so our fees are spent on providing outstanding design and service to our clients.

“That means we are able to be just as effective on the small projects as the large ones.”