Ode to the Jour­ney

Design Anthology - - Dossier - Text Jing­mei Luo Im­ages Den­nis Lo

En­ter­ing Ori­gin Grill within Sin­ga­pore’s Shangri-La Ho­tel is like step­ping into an oa­sis. Away from the ho­tel’s lobby and its ca­coph­ony of hu­man traf­fic in tran­sit, a tun­nel of white thresh­olds lead­ing into the restau­rant — el­e­gantly arched and tim­ber-lined — em­anates calm.

Full-height win­dows light up this al­abaster cor­ri­dor as it segues into the vo­lu­mi­nous and glo­ri­ously sun­lit main din­ing room. Nat­u­ral light dances on the sur­faces in a peren­nial play of light and shadow and high­lights the domed sof­fit above, which con­tin­ues beyond the glass walls into arched over­hangs, guid­ing the eye to­wards the ver­dant ex­te­rior.

Tex­tured with an acous­tic layer, the curved ceil­ing of­fers a raw, cav­ernous feel. More sig­nif­i­cantly, it’s rem­i­nis­cent of train sta­tion ar­chi­tec­ture. This is the crux of the de­sign con­cept, ac­cord­ing to Maxime Dautresme, found­ing part­ner and cre­ative direc­tor of A Work of Sub­stance, the Hong Kong-based de­sign agency that was tasked with ren­o­vat­ing the space in the ho­tel’s newly re­fur­bished Tower Wing.

The start­ing point was a pho­to­graph, pro­vided by the client, of an old train sta­tion, with a brief to cel­e­brate the ho­tel’s grand legacy and re­flect its fresh pro­duce, par­tic­u­larly seafood and ex­quis­ite gourmet steaks — think snowaged, full-blood wagyu from Ni­igata, Japan.

Dautresme’s ap­proach was to slow things down — lit­er­ally. The afore­men­tioned en­trance cor­ri­dor be­gins that process, and in one of the arches lin­ing it a cus­tom-de­signed ki­netic sculp­ture — a ball that nav­i­gates through a net­work of metal paths — of­fers fur­ther pause. ‘A key as­pect of train sta­tions is the flu­id­ity of the lay­out — how one space re­veals an­other to pro­vide an ef­fi­cient route. We wanted to cap­ture this and high­light how a jour­ney isn’t about get­ting to a des­ti­na­tion as quickly as pos­si­ble, but also about the time that is ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing the tran­si­tion. A jour­ney is mul­ti­di­men­sional, just like the food at Ori­gin, which in­volves the process of ripen­ing pro­duce, the ma­tur­ing of meat, and so on,’ Dautresme ex­plains.

The arched ceil­ings, un­cov­ered af­ter the re­moval of lay­ers cladding a former Ja­pa­nese restau­rant, are a per­fect foil for the leit­mo­tif of curves and arches Dautresme re­peats in por­tals, wall fea­tures and al­coves — the lat­ter a cosy fea­ture within the bar that is sep­a­rated from the main din­ing room by a fluted glass wall. Backed by the mise en scène of sil­hou­et­ted al­co­hol bot­tles, the wall re­veals, ac­cord­ing to the de­signer, ‘or­gan­ised chaos of colour’. Fur­thest from the en­trance, a trio of large domed slid­ing doors open up to pri­vate din­ing rooms.

‘The high arches pro­vide a sense of dis­cov­ery, pace a cus­tomer’s jour­ney through­out, and cre­ate mys­tery and the de­sire to dis­cover more. The divi­sion of space cre­ates rhythm,’ ex­plains Dautresme. Vene­tian plas­ter on the walls, teak and mar­ble un­der­foot, sculp­tural light pen­dants over­head and brass ac­cents through­out re­flect the ho­tel’s his­toric grandeur. Wall lamps in­spired by train sig­nalling lights and tim­ber seat­ing sim­i­lar to the benches found in train sta­tions re­in­force the nar­ra­tive with­out be­ing overly lit­eral. Within the bar, hues of deep blue set the mood for more in­ti­mate en­coun­ters, matched by low-slung cane so­fas and elab­o­rate par­quet floor­ing ooz­ing vin­tage ap­peal.

Ori­gin may be mod­estly sized, but there is much to ob­serve. The trans­for­ma­tion of the space is con­sid­ered and re­fined; the com­bi­na­tion of el­e­ments en­cap­su­lates the ex­oti­cism of travel with­out ever fall­ing into the trap of kitsch.

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