Top Design Stories
A Tale Of Two Aesthetics
New York-based design firm Avroko offers up two iconic, but wildly different design styles for the F&B establishments in one of Beijing’s most exclusive hotels, the Kengo Kuma designed The Opposite House.
Located within the bustling Sanlitun neighbourhood in the heart of Beijing, the recently renovated Opposite House offers guests a reimagined space that blends bold contemporary art with Chinese traditions that draw inspiration from Beijing’s creative energy. The distinctly urban sanctuary is a perfect complement to Sanlitun’s lifestyle hotspot and fashionable atmosphere.
Originally designed by acclaimed Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma in 2008, The Opposite House was the first House of The House Collective by Swire Hotels, a group of refined, highly individual properties, each with its own distinctive character. The Opposite House’s redesign blends contemporary art with present-day culture, from the new lobby concept, to three new dining and bar venues as well as an immersive gallery space.
The redesigned lobby space also includes the Atrium, which acts as a gallery space. The House curates new installations throughout the year, displaying works from talented Chinese and international artists, sharing a world of contemporary art, steeped in fresh cultural insights. Every installation is intended to stand alone, unique on its own but in harmony with the surroundings, to bring a sense of intimacy and resonance within the space.
Also among its new experiences is the addition of UNION, a modern-day salon and bar concept as well as Superfly, the new casual Sichuan bar and restaurant featuring vibrant interiors inspired by local street culture and pop art. While both bars were designed by leading New York-based design firm, AvroKO, the design styles for both are vastly different.
Just as its name suggests, The Opposite House is a place of contrasts, further inspiring the team to create the experiential duality of UNION and SUPERFLY. The team created one luxurious and plush cocktail bar and lounge; UNION, and, SUPERFLY as the more approachable foil, geared towards a younger clientele with a more casual environment and friendly price point, to counterbalance its high-end refinement.
Taking inspiration from the ancient Silk Road, UNION serves up a diversity of crafted cocktails that combine an array of flavours from China to the Mediterranean.
Designed by AvroKO’s Bangkok studio, the idea for UNION was focused on a sense of discovery and emotionally connected experiences. The team envisioned a beautiful, yet versatile, space that was suited to living, working and socialising. With the simple elegance of well-executed hospitality in mind, they created a space that enables exceptional levels of service and functionality, without compromising the guest experience.
The sleek new bar embodies the spirit of 1920’s modernism, with copper architectural frames and metal mesh sheets showcasing artwork, sculptures and objects and drawing in guests. Seemingly whimsical in nature, hidden elements such as the bar trolley, spicery wall and DJ booths enable a seamless transition from day to night; from day-time coffee lounge to night-time cocktail venue.
The team at AvroKO also sought to make the most of the high ceilings while giving the customer a sense of intimacy by defining the space with a series of sculptural metal walls, while nique connection plates create pill-shaped negative spaces throughout the bar. The bar’s geometrical shapes, meanwhile, reference the experimental use of shape, form and material in the early age of modernism.
The use of intricately detailed and textured brass screens define certain gathering spaces and further sculpt the different areas, providing a clear social flow. From certain positions, the screens align to create a moment of discovery and order, adding a touch of mystery to the seating areas.
The back bar behind morphs between day-time and night-time use. During the day, the airy, lofty space is inspiring and refreshing while the lighting becomes more dramatic. It is during daytime that the sliding screens reveal beautiful coffee and tea equipment, while in the evening, liquor bottles sit in front of a deep red lacquer backdrop.
Putting a creative spin on Sichuan’s buzzed about “Fly restaurants” SUPERFLY presents Sichuan inspired comfort food and childhood favorites, made with locally sourced ingredients and paired with specialty craft beers which include reinventions of nostalgic Chinese childhood beverages like the Arctic Ocean Soda and Salty Lime Seven.
In contrast to UNION, SUPERFLY was conceptualised as a casual, neo-pop Chinese bistro that channels the energy and eclecticism of China’s youth culture, while bringing the history of Sichuan cuisine to the forefront. The retro-futuristic eatery sought to blend iconic historic typologies with a vision towards the future, with the design team seeking references including the colours and textures of Chinese street life, hutong shophouse interiors, and other tapestries of local life.
The design team sought to bring out the energy and spirit of Chinese creativity and artistic exploration by decontextualising and re-presenting graphic novels and pop culture posters. Utilizing a signature video art installation with a multi-screen display of early martial arts videos and quirky, old-school children’s cartoons, the team was able to create an animated visual tapestry that feels at once familiar and strangely new.
The team also took inspiration from neighbourhood cafes in selecting the ceramic tiles in greens, blues, oranges and whites, as well as the terrazzo tables to provide more of a hint at the comfort of domestic life, which contrasted well with the pops of neon and eclectic lighting. Further building in this aesthetic, the design team also opted to use Pullman booth seating in brass and fabric-wrapped niches, and forest-green and chartreuse banquettes and chairs, which were complemented by the hand-blown cherry-coloured chandeliers overhead.
To further drive home the aesthetic, the design team also incorporated subtle references to a variety of standard household appliances, like fans and kitchen gadgets, reimagined through a futuristic lens. The salmon and white terrazzo tabletops and the banquette niches next to the open kitchen are emblazoned with a custom blue terrazzo base moulding that frames the perimeter of the venue and reaches up to form the table bases with curved edges and brass trimmings.
“I often find inspiration from the streets. I love the unique, humble, unexpected moments that aren’t traditionally fussed over or called design, fashion, or art.”
Founding Partner, AvroKO