Contemporary Dining In Bahrain

SHH has designed the three storey, 300 seater Nu Asia restaurant in Manama to be three interlocking volumes, each increasing in size. The first and smallest box (8.5m) is clad in dark, timber slats offering protection against searing daytime heat whilst allowing the light to shine through dramatically at night.

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By  Charlotte Butterfield Published  June 1, 2006

SHH has designed the three storey, 300 seater Nu Asia restaurant in Manama to be three interlocking volumes, each increasing in size. The first and smallest box (8.5m) is clad in dark, timber slats offering protection against searing daytime heat whilst allowing the light to shine through dramatically at night. “Our external modelling tips its hat to traditional Asian timber construction. We tried not to provide another modern glass clad structure which seems completely at odds with the harsh Bahrain climate,” says project architect Guy Matheson. The concept was to create a “lively space, which glows at night, and creates interesting shadow patterns during the day, setting up exciting views of the interior upon arrival.” The second 9.7m high ‘Chinese lantern’ box is clad in dark glass, with applied aluminium mullions in a geometric pattern, whilst the third and highest (12.2m) box is a solid stone block. Small windows are set flush with the exterior, creating a flat surface softened by the seemingly random grain patterns of the Indian teakwood sandstone. The SHH design brief was to create a contemporary, but unpretentious interior for an Asian-fusion family restaurant. The designers gained inspiration from the vivid colours and prints found in Asian fabrics, which form a common link between all four of the national foods on offer: Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Thai. Strong pinks and saffron colours are prevalent such as in the padded silk wall coverings and glass screens. These bright vivid tones are set against the soft, natural stone and the dark timber floors and finned raft ceiling. SHH was careful to select materials, which would cope with a large number of clientele, such as stone, Galala marble, back painted glass and hardwood timbers which are hard wearing and easily cleaned. “We have tried to use materials fairly easily obtainable in Bahrain,” says Matheson. Inside the restaurant, the ground floor is occupied by hoop tables with communal benches, and ottoman seating, while the raised levels contain banquettes and café style tables and chairs. “In the culture of Bahrain, the family is still a very strong unit. This means that we can’t aim the restaurant at a single age group, it has to be comfortable for all. As such we have provided various seating types. It is also a device for breaking up the large volumes visually,” adds Matheson. The desire for privacy — integral to Bahrainian culture, has been implemented upstairs, with three private dining rooms, and a secluded area with a number of screens and voiles separating the tables. An element of theatrics has been injected into the design with the inclusion of an open kitchen. However, the designers were keen to place limits on how much of the kitchen will actually be on show to diners. “The kitchen is visible as theatre at the entry lobby reception and waiting area, but not the restaurant itself. You have to be very careful opening up a commercial kitchen to scrutiny.” SHH has used a rich and colourful palette throughout the design to sum up the essential warmth of Asian cuisine. “The result will be very exciting visually but also provide a calming environment to dine,” says Matheson.

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