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15 August 2012
AvroKO returns to Singapore with a new project – this time a warm, sexy and quintessentially Spanish experience in a floating pavilion. Yvonne Xu reports.
Singapore’s latest downtown dining gem Catalunya is helmed by an A-list team of culinary experts from the likes of elBulli, Santi, Drolma, and Sketch; but it’s also got a star design team to boast about. New York design group AvroKO (of PUBLIC fame), who’s also given Singapore its acclaimed Bedrock Bar & Grill, returns to Singapore to conceptualise the new contemporary Spanish restaurant and bar.
“We wanted to create an experience that was dramatic, sexy, warm and welcoming. To be honest, that’s our usual modus operandi, and we were glad that our client wanted to create the same experience,” shares William Harris, one of the four principals of AvroKO.
An inspiration the group looked to was Barcelona’s famed public market, La Boqueria. “It is quintessentially Spain, and we loved the sense of bounty and community it embodies. We have a fair amount of actual market produce and other organics visible within the space, especially on our market wall lining the lounge, which is always growing and in flux… and probably the most unusual and striking element surely is the spinning, roasting whole pigs visible behind glass at the entrance. We wanted to create a sense of bounty and activity and to immediately get one into the mind set of a market fresh, tasty adventure,” shares Harris.
To tackle the pavilions tricky round floor plan, AvroKO opted for a radial layout, centred by a raised circular bar and lounge smack dab in the middle of the room.
“The centrepiece and heartbeat of the space surely is the massive 2-ton glass-and-brass chandelier hovering over the radial bar. It organically and seamlessly connects with the radial bottle storage below, integrating display and function into one, which is a real hallmark of what we always attempt to achieve in our designs,” explains Harris. “A deep amber glow emanates from within and creates a great contrast to the watery blue landscape just beyond the windows.”
To be sure every guest could enjoy the view, the dining room sits a few steps below the bar. Big, round leather banquettes radiate around the inner perimeter with views outwards, and large chunky wood end grain dining tables sit closest to the windows. Harris explains that the natural material palette reflects the honest and earthy feel of the restaurant’s cuisine. Another small but clever gesture involving the use of thousands of brass tacks further gels the concept: “We sent literally thousands of unique brass furniture tacks from the US to be installed on the leather-clad walls… Repeating patterns define the boundaries of the panels and create a masculine edge and light-catching shimmer to the space. The very same tacks were integrated into the menus, and are tacked into the spines of the folders for a very consistent feel and approach between the physical space, and what a diner touches and feels at the table.”
White mosaic tiles, sourced locally and installed piece by piece by hand, also line the bar face, the columns, and parts of the floor. “It’s a little nod to Gaudi, we suppose, but it really catches the light nicely and certainly has a Spanish sensibility,” shares Harris. “Of course our taxidermied bullhead direct from Spain holding court over the bar doesn’t hurt either. We all debated this, but in the end we just couldn’t help ourselves. It’s just so incredible to look at.”