Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
RAW in Taipei, Taiwan by WEIJENBERG
June 4th, 2015 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: WEIJENBERG
The conversation between WEIJENBERG and Chef André Chiang (50 Best Restaurant’s) to design a new restaurant in Taipei started late 2013. It quickly became clear that André’s gastronomic vivid imagination combined with WEIJENBERG’s artistic vision would set both on a trajectory to create a restaurant reflecting the visceral and primitive nature of its namesake ‘RAW’.
The restaurant design tells a parallel tale about how chef André’s food can be experienced. Diners step into the eatery across a wooden path entering a tranquil lounge area designed to lead customers on a journey and create a gentle transition from the bustling streets of Taipei. A soft angled, organically sculptured wooden structure greets guests, and as they move into the main restaurant space, this wooden structure merges to form the centre piece of RAW surrounding the centralized dining area.
Customers sit at tailor-made tables with lighting that creates a stage for the food, drawing customers in closer to the table and to each other.
What was the collaboration with Chef Andre like?
The conversation between WEIJENBERG and Chef Andreto design a new restaurant started late 2013 after WEIJENBERG’s architectural designs for Jason Atherton’s The Study and The Library in Singapore caught Andre’s eye. It quickly became clear that Andre’s gastronomic vivid imagination combined with WEIJENBERG’s artistic vision would set both on a trajectory to create a restaurant that would reflect the visceral and primitive nature of its namesake ‘RAW’.
The collaboration brought two minds together with a mutual ambition to create something extraordinary. Andre’s artistic vision for food allowed WEIJENBERG to discuss the design on a much deeper level, and while Andre had specific ideas about the interior design, he also provided the creative freedom to actualize a new entity of restaurant that is fast becoming a hallmark of Taipei – that of gastronomy fused with design, where food meets art. There was no one inspiration for RAW, it was a true case of two creatives meeting on equal terms, challenging one another and evolving an idea.
Along the way there were many opportunities to simplify the design, make it smaller or even take out large sections. But we persevered with the courage of conviction that we were creating something truly unique and managed to steer the project exactly as we had envisioned. The artistic tension between contractor and the client led to the result that can be seen in the restaurant now.
It seems like you were not merely approaching the project as a space for dining, but a stage for a performance where food is the main performer. How did this idea influence your design?
André’s food is always presented with artistry providing a muse for WEIJENBERG to select colours and tones accordingly to keep the main dining area minimal. The desired aesthetic was to create a close proximity between customer and food –table and chairs with lighting that would almost shine on the dishes only. The experience of Andre’s food is intended to be intimate. This intimacy allowed us to use wood as our main medium in the restaurant in its pure state to encapsulate the customers with in a wooden sculpture in a gentle manner.
Why was it important to not have distinctive divisions in the restaurant?
For us it was important not to have distinct partitions as we felt this ‘boxy’ approach would be restrictive for a highly creative chef. We made RAW intentionally interior borderless, yet we still needed to very exciting medium to work with.
What are the specifications of the central wooden sculpture? What holds it up?
The wooden sculpture is about 65m long and is held up with double anchor points on each node reinforced with steel on the inside as well as diagonal bracing to prevent lateral swing in the event of an earthquake (which are frequent in Taipei).
The central wooden sculpture exhibits both craftsmanship and technology – what is the relationship between the two and how does the central wooden sculpture illustrate this?
The large wooden sculpture was designed by various computer software programs, 3D Rhinoceros and Grasshopper to create a machine cutting pattern. FEM (Finite Element Method) was used to calculate the load on the ceiling sculpture in the event of earthquakes.
The wood itself was subsequently handcrafted by carpenters who assembled the sculpture piece by piece. This is visible as each section of the sculpture has several joints; large pieces have been assembled in blocks where sometimes a joint is still noticeable. The textured lines on the sculpture were left on purpose and planned digitally before they were cut so they aligned in the right direction and always matched.
Could you elaborate a bit on the kind of Taiwanese-ness exhibited through the project?
The entire project is made in Taiwan, from the local Taiwanese Soft Wood cut out of wooden blocks from techniques traditionally used in ship making. All details were precisely drawn out and discussed with local carpenters on site and in the factories. The long wine wall, containing storage units is almost 4.5m high and almost 18m long,made entirely with typical Taiwan louvers.
What is the relationship between the central wooden sculpture and the seater rectangular / round tables? Why are the seater tables in different shapes?
The tables each have a different shaped table top, to break the space and monotony further, preventing a clustered feel. It also creates a sense of variety as you can dine at RAW many times and never have the same seat or view.
What is the area of the restaurant?
RAW is within the Zhongshan District, just north of the river, a newly developed district. The entire restaurant is about 4500sqf. The restaurant holds 56seats, 16 seats are part of the semi private dining area and 8 seats at the entrance area.
What is the ceiling height of RAW?
The height from floor to the finished ceiling of RAW is 3.8m. Along the wine wall the ceiling is 4.8m high.
WEIJENBERG is a boutique design firm based in Singapore with an international portfolio that features crafted bespoke pieces, private design projects and commercial ventures. Each project is fuelled by the passion to explore and collaborate with clients, challenge ideas within the design team and its brief and the ambition to create unique and detailed works. ‘Crafting the Traditional’ is the firm’s signature aesthetic – a modern yet classic outlook on design that is functional, complementing the elements surrounding its environment.
The firm’s founder, Dutch architect CamielWeijenberg, is a scholar of the Architecture Association, London, past student of the renowned ZahaHadid Architects and has worked at Wilkinson Eyre Architects in London. Camiel currently teaches Architectural Studies part time at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and is setting up a research program with the Singapore University of Technology and Design affiliated with MIT.