Project type: Restaurant
Location: Chengdu, China
Photos: Golf Tattler, Lai Xuzhu
Located in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province in China, the GINGKO BACCHUS Restaurant is a surrealistic blend (a “graft”) of western and Chinese restaurant and food culture.
The starting point for the design is a blacked out space. The public spaces are considered a river or a stream along which one “floats” through the depth of the 1,200 m² black space. The stream begins at the elevators, the public entrance to the restaurant on the fourth floor of the Gingko Restaurant Building. The wavy wood-ribbon ceiling and stainless steel intarsia of the floor pattern evoke a sense of flow along the “stream” which leads to an open dining and show cooking area. Eight private dining rooms are located like boulders along the stream, each colour coded and themed by food and famous Bacchus depictions.
Food is used in various layers of abstraction throughout the restaurant. Each private dining room has its own custom wallpaper of simple food produce – carrots, mushrooms, walnuts, broccoli, beans, chilies, or artichokes – made of mirrored and repeated high-resolution images of these vegetables. The colour of each room echoes that of its designated vegetable, and together the eight rooms transition gently from green to red.
The walls of the stream feature wall-height photographic reinterpretations of traditional Dutch still-life paintings*. These images are placed behind one way mirrors equipped with time-controlled back-lighting that makes it possible to highlight or fade out certain aspects of the images. The entire hallway changes in slow motion, the light fading gradually causing the image to disappear and the beholder to appear reflected in the mirror. Like Alice in Wonderland, one finds oneself immersed in a surrealist landscape of giant-sized food. The still life paintings of the Dutch masters make reference to luxury, vanity and cupidity, adding a second layer of meaning through the glorification of the vegetables.
Bacchus (or Dionysus) from antique mythology elevates food to the realm of cult. As the god of wine, earthly delights and their enjoyment, he watches over the guests as they dine exquisite food and wine in the restaurant. Each of the nine rooms features a famous painting of Bacchus – for example, Caravaggio’s depiction of Bacchus as a young “Boy with a Fruit Basket”, or the “Triumph of Bacchus” by Velázquez – but in an abstracted, pixelated representation laser-cut out of sheet stainless steel. The illuminated background of the vegetable wallpapers and Arcadian landscapes can be seen through the laser-cut pixels of the historical Bacchus paintings.
The ceiling of the dining rooms reverses the play of foreground and background: here images of Nymphs – the playmates of Bacchus – can be glimpsed from certain angles through pixelated and laser-cut images of grapes. This sexual undertone is repeated in the custom-designed counters, tables and sofas, which are composed of two elements in different forms of embrace, fusion and separation.
Dark-tinted mirrors and reflective surfaces are used throughout the restaurant to create surrealistic extensions of space, blurring the guest’s orientation. Overhead mirrors make the public dining room appear double the height. TV screens concealed above the one-way mirrors create the impression of frameless images floating between spaces. At various different points, illumination is used to create illusions of space, luring the beholder towards objects that are actually behind surfaces. Illusion and reflection are ever-present aspects of the restaurant design.
But the highlight of the restaurant is the food itself: an intriguing fusion of international cuisine with Chinese influences, enhanced by the famous flavours of the Ginkgo Restaurant Group.
GRAFT’s work also included the entire graphic design of the restaurant, from the wallpapers to the menus.
* Photos of the still life images by Kevin Best, Paddington, Australia