Contemporary Western Dining, Full-Scope Design
Silver (DrivenxDesign HK21)
Flames Whampoa is the third restaurant by the Flames brand in Hong Kong. Metagram's brief was to establish an iconic visual identity which could solidify the visual outlook of the brand's restaurants.
Both the founders of Metagram and Flames shared a background of living in Sydney, Australia. This nostalgic synergy created a consensus that the outcome of the design should simulate the wonderful Australian dining experiences fondly remembered by both parties.
Metagram proposed the target of achieving a distinctly Australian dining experience using only atmospheric design strategies and materials, whilst avoiding literal references, such as pictures or cultural objects.
The key feature of the design is the bold use of teak sandstone. A critical reference to Sydney Sandstone - a key building materials of many historic buildings and districts in Sydney. Metagram worked closely with material suppliers, viewing dozens of samples to identify a source that would accurately simulate the Australian stone.
This beautiful material is characterized by a base of golden sand and highlighted gentle rifts of reddened rust-like accents. Historically, in Sydney, Australia this material was the readily available stone which was used by early settlers to build key colonial style buildings in lieu of typically used granite or marble found in Europe. In more recent times, this material has been used as façade cladding or contemporary style landscape pavers, often with a honed finish to accentuate the colour and red highlights.
At the time of the design, there was no known retail stores or restaurants in Hong Kong using this material as its primary feature. Metagram used this material in key locations of the design including a key six meter long street front feature wall, and critical locations internally.
Used in combination with the other core materials (black metal and Japanese finger tiles) the Sydney reference is firmly defined, as these materials are also common features of Australian design.
The key challenge was the creation of the Australian-Sydney dining experience in a very local and residential part of Hong Kong. Simultaneously, COVID-19 lockdowns had created a hostile environment for the restaurant sector, creating economic limitations.
Creating environments which simulate 'place' without being a 'themed' design is always challenging. This is because the experience of a place is more a feeling, than a specific list of characteristics.
In order to create an Australian dining experience, Metagram had to adopt more spacious planning strategies, in contrast to the typical high density Hong Kong style restaurants (whilst retaining a certain headcount for business feasibility). A variety of dining typologies was utilized in order to achieve this feel, in combination with entirely transparent street facing windows, which increased natural light penetration and the general feeling of lightness.
In addition, Metagram used material also more common to Australia. The sandstone, chosen specifically to look like Sydney Sandstone, is a material that is ever-present and a normal building material in Sydney. Used in combination with blackened metal, these two materials together subtly reference the iconic symbol of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (with its sandstone guard towers and massive black-painted and curved iron structure). Metagram created an 'oculus' ceiling hung structure to emphasize this. Finally, Japanese finger tiles, a currently trending material in Australian architecture was used to establish the design as contemporary and anchored in 'now'.
In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic many restaurant groups everywhere have experienced huge economic challenges. Economic sustainability - the ability of the business to profit and support the lives and families of its employees was a critical and central factor.
The original site was a previously an existing restaurant. Metagram's design from day 1 set out to re-use and re-utilize as many built aspects of the previous restaurant as possible. This approach had a two-edge outcome, reducing waste from perfectly usable older material, and reducing the carbon foot print from needing to source new material. In addition, the resulting cost savings would allow for the procurement of higher quality materials to create a more appealing environment and thus a more successful business.
Elements retained included the kitchen, some floor finishes, the HVAC systems, architectural elements of the façade, all items which generate significant waste if demolished.
All materials were locally sourced from existing stock - including the sandstone. Importing Sydney Sandstone from Australia would have an obviously negative environmental footprint. Metagram carefully searched local existing stock for the best matching material to achieve the desired appearance.