by Jincy IypeNov 23, 2020
Experiential retail design has greatly evolved into an aesthetic phenomenon, merging with other typologies across hospitality, entertainment, fashion, cosmetics, religion, and many more, to create attention-grabbing, spatial permutations and combinations, urging social media influencers to flaunt the space, its ambience and what it caters to. But even then, how many of us really take out time to venture into these spaces, not just for the cuisine but for its décor, interiors and spatial programme? How can eateries, bars and cafe designs ensure customer interactions and increased visits in an era of fast-food dining and takeaway orders?
Spanish design agency Masquespacio, known for their warm and zany interiors, presents their first project for the brand Mo, a bakery and espresso coffee bar located in Prince Turkey Street, Alkurnaish, Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Captivating guests with its monochrome, fairy-tale, suspended interiors, the hospitality design was commissioned by Omar and Asim from RightGrain, an experience-based company that tasked Masquespacio to create an interior design that would stand out, create interactions between the brand and customers and be community driven.
"It was clear from the beginning that Omar and Asim were ready to challenge us and we were ready to challenge them," relays Christophe Penasse, co-founder, Masquespacio, who designed an engaging, "parallel universe" for the project “to get away from the traditional”. The project was recently announced the winner of the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards 2022.
During initial conversations, one of the primal facets to be highlighted was zeroed down to the baked goods being the main attraction of the bakehouse and espresso bar, "presented in the space as jewels with authentic and renewable flavours," the Spanish designers share.
For the same, Masquespacio began to develop a concept based on 'water', a powerful element in nature which creates life and magic and is also one of the key ingredients, or base for baking. "At the same time water is an element that can distort reality and change our point of view, which is the perfect matching point with MO's philosophy to do things differently," adds Ana Milena Hernández Palacios, co-founder, Masquespacio.
The Valencia-based studio ditched their signature use of multi-colour, pastel and bubblegum colour palettes as well as varied textured furnishings for this 400 sqm interiors, following their adopted concept of flowing water. At first glance, the photographs almost seem shot in greyscale, with absolutely no signs of colour within the space.
The project is sectioned into three different parts, each representing a phase in making baked goods and brewing coffee, with water as the main ingredient. The first one embodies the "liquid state" where the dough is mixed with water, the space becoming the nexus for all the other areas inside.
A massive, fairy-tale-like waterfall is recreated for the white and silvery bar zone, manifesting as surreal shifting skies for the central point of the space, with products on sale on full display. This was created by sandblasting each tube to create the illusion of the shape of water and frosting, as a "feeling of what is beyond".
The "solid-state" of water as ice is portrayed and positioned in front of the bar design, where a huge cluster of cylindrical lamps represent the crystalline solid as the main attraction. Next to them reside a series of oversize, "fire" bulbs that embody the "gaseous state", signifying the moment when pastry gets baked inside an oven’s fiery hot insides.
Every decor item and piece of furniture design employed has been made bespoke for MO Al Khobar, providing a myriad of seating options and in turn, different experiences, for visitors. These include low lounge seating and shared tables to high stools and semi-private couple seating. For the tables and fabrics, a grey and white colour palette with metallic finishes further the futuristic, greyscale aesthetic, generating reflections that create evanescence, distortion and dynamism as if made of water.
The lighting design fully incorporates controllable RGB-lighting to set varying moods, converting the space to multiple statuses, such as a campaign meeting area, event space, dinner and more. This is also extended by the reflections of the space in chrome fabrics, tables and shiny spheres and reflective orbs creating another level of optical fusion. The bakehouse and coffee bar is conceived as a space that is "not solid" – "It is interchangeable and dynamic, following what the brand has to say. Welcome to the new mood branding,” the interior designer adds.
Concerning the furniture, every item has been customised and designed by Masquespacio, offering different seating options to create different experiences for the visitors from low lounge seating and shared tables to high stools and semi-private couple seating. For the contemporary design, a grey and white colour palette have been chosen with metallic finishes for the tables and fabrics, to generate distorting, evanescent reflections, as if those surfaces are made of water.
“Mo is a parallel universe. A space where all aspects have been touched by the unknown, the food, the drinks and the interior. The huge mirror on the ceiling, raised 10 meters from the ground, represents a gate to another world. A reflection of reality and a portal to surrealism,” concludes Asim Al Harthi, co-founder of Mo.
A neutral aesthetic of whites and greys accompany glossy and matte, metallic textures, interrupted by flowing, sinuous forms as much as illuminated orbs and flat surfaces, like water flowing, freezing and evaporating, to create a social space that both intrigues and energises. Masquespacio's exercise in a muted yet surreal layout for this bakehouse and coffee bar also reveals how interior design can influence the way people perceive and use the space which almost comes off as a sculptural installation.