I have long been fascinated by Chinese architecture and art. The intense colour, symbolism, detailed carvings, antiquated textures and mythological beasts are so alluring. So when I had the opportunity in 2007 to design a Chinese restaurant for the Roosters Club, Bondi, with Altis Architecture, I was delighted. The quandary was what aspect to zone in on for the concept driver.
Hmmmm…..Could it be the preciousness of Jade? Maybe just for the front desk. Jade is only good in small doses. And lanterns? Well of course, so many styles to choose from, so there were heaps of those.
I though back to my time as a design student doing a heritage studio in Penang Island, the Chinese majority Malaysian state. I was living in a haunted old Chinese Shop-house in Georgetown and wandering the humid streets looking for inspiration. One of the things that struck me about Straits Chinese culture was the in your face assault of food everywhere. The constant clanging of woks and hissing as wet food is checked in. The unmistakable smell of Char Kway Teow and Nasi Goreng. The constant of washing, shaking and stacking of bamboo steamers of all sizes.
It was a big space and we needed screens to divide it up, so why not use a cooking implement as architecture, bound together with jute?
With all the circular motifs of the steamers, it seemed apt to include the double happiness symbol in the lounge rug and on the entry doors.
Dramatic mood lighting design by Sophia Ng
Throw in a few birdcages.
The mythical dragon is the beast that unifies Asian, Anglo, Nordic, Celtic and even middle eastern cultures. As a Chinese symbol of power, strength, protection, prosperity and good luck, this black and gold wallpaper was a great find.
It was one of the most challenging project I have worked on, as I was project manager as well as designer. There was a completely new Chinese kitchen required and heaps of services nightmares. The CFO of the club, Scott Macdonald, was a very patient man through the process. I’d gladly do another Asian themed restaurant though.
Photography by David Curzon