Located in the heart of Tokyo’s Roppongi district, Ryoji Iedokoro Architects have created a new restaurant with a forest-like interior, inspired by the origins of man. The architect and client met socially, where the restaurant owner expressed his plans to open his first restaurant in central Roppongi. Due to the abundance of restaurants in the area, the client expressed an intention to create something visually striking that would set it apart from the rest.
The restaurant serves yakiniku (Japanese grilled meat), hence Ryoji Iedokoro Architects’ design concept being based on the early origins of man, and furthermore connected with the primal diet of meat. From this, the architects have reimagined the concept of communal gathering spaces as places of generating conversation and dialogue, the very basis of human connection.
Over a total of site area of 130sqm divided over two floors, the restaurant sits on a corner site in Tokyo’s dense Roppongi area.Ryoji Iedokoro explains, “The exposed corner site meant a protective building was required for both visual and acoustic privacy, and the design seeks to create an enclosed shelter for the occupants.”
From street view, the wide glass facade from the ground floor is connected to the second, allowing plenty of generous light. The design provides a transparent view of the restaurant, almost as if it had been sliced in half to expose the three key elements for its concept of the origins of humans; from the caves, to earth and heaven. Architect Ryoji Iedokoro explains, “The design reminds us of these natural surroundings, being around trees on a riverside, sitting in caves to avoid rain and wind. Experiencing not only the visual image of this design, but also enjoying an emotive experience, which will create vivid and inspirational memories.
Each design material was selected for their diversity to the space. On the ground floor dining area, a long communal glass table is positioned against a mirrored wall providing the illusion of continuing space. The glass floors tiles were made from recycled glass, with the elongated glass table incorporating a smokey black ink running throughout the entire table resembling smoke from a fire. The cave-like interior presents wood-grain walls that have in fact been hand-shaped from concrete to provide the particular texture.
On the 2nd floor, find a forest-like interior with carefully segmented group dining spaces that provide privacy in an open-plan seating area. Seating separations are made by unassuming steel pipes resembling trees with branch-like hooks to hang coats and jackets from, allowing for more space. As one of the most captivating design elements, the floor was made from layered OSB wood panel with each piece hand-placed in the shape of a mountainous landscape. “The floors are designed to show the contours of the ground so we can feel nature underneath our feet,” says Ryoji.
Plans for a rooftop garden and dining area as the third “sky” stage is anticipated for completion by next year, and part of the architect and restaurants owners ongoing collaboration. Certainly an interior concept that is not your usual restaurant experience.
Ryoji Iedokoro Architects riao.co.jp
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Let’s talk about ‘it’: that quiet, confident ability of making perfection appear entirely effortless. Unsurprisingly, every designer the world-over spends inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to achieve that feeling of ‘it’, the self-assuredness of an object appearing as though it was always meant to be just so, revelling in its singular and unaffected timelessness.
And over the past decade or so, the design history of Scandinavia has captured the world’s attention for precisely this reason. Touted as the enduing aesthetic, or the perfect synthesis of form meeting function, the Scandinavian design tradition is undoubtedly one of honesty and sublimity. It comes as no shock, then, that the Finns have a word for ‘it’ – muutos: ‘new perspective’. Taking its cues from this singular and perfectly honed word, Scandinavian design house MUUTO has taken it upon itself to reimagine the parameters and perspectives of the region’s design thinking. Founded by Kristian Byrge and Peter Bonnen, MUUTO maintains the stance that timelessness in design need not shirk the concept of change and innovation.
After all, within this past decade when Scandinavian design took over the world – proliferating an entirely new conception of living well through design – it became apparent that through appealing to the late majority we quickly found ourselves faced with the constant reinterpretation of existing designs and a pervading sense of ennui. We began to worry: is this the end of cultural history? And while I’m normally not one to back the naysayers, it’s not a dumb question which lies at the core of MUUTO’s orientation to contemporary design. Having tired of the overabundance that ended up cheapening the Scandinavian design tradition, MUUTO engaged an impressive lineup of architects, designers and fine artists from the Nordic countries to disrupt and reimagine the accepted concepts of Scandinavian design history. The brand has now ushered in, in their own words, “a great new era of Scandinavian design” that covers accessories, lighting and furniture now vaunted as the benchmark for quality and functionality.
Seeking to expand the heritage of Nordic design, MUUTO continues to innovate with unflagging aplomb. Forward-looking materials, techniques, creative thinking and specialist craftsmanship all combine with its ongoing commitment to a no-nonsense, fresh perspective on the history and future of Scandinavian design and aesthetics. And never, it would seem, has this come at a more timely point for the design lovers amongst us. After all, Christen Grosen, Design Director at MUUTO, wisely reminds me that “today, the boundary between private and professional lives is slowly dissolving – workplaces, restaurants and other public spaces are becoming less formal and we do not enjoy everything too sterile and rigid.” Recalling for us that, while the conditions of our daily lives continue to change, perhaps then the design traditions that facilitate these changes should evolve, too?
“I am very aware of how much power aesthetics has in a room,” says Christen. “For example, the difference between a table being square versus round – it changes the dynamics of a meeting. You change your daily life by moving around and it shows what a huge influence your décor has. It creates renewed energy and, derived from that, a sense of happiness.”
Celebrating this keen understanding of the future of Scandiavian design, Living Edge – MUUTO’s suppliers in Australia – hosted a private event at the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room to welcome the brand’s CEO, Anders Cleeman, and Sales Director, Christian Ernemann, to Australia where it seems that Scandinavian design has left an indelible mark on our national psyche. Showcasing an impressive host of designs by an equally impressive list of names, pieces from MUUTO’s latest collections beautifully offset Sydney’s harbour views. And in Living Edge’s own words, “The brand strives to expand on the strong Scandinavian design tradition but always approaches it with a new and original perspective.” After all, whoever said that beauty couldn’t be an everyday affair?