by Jerry ElengicalJul 12, 2021
Operating on a clear brief to merge its signatory local South East Asian context and a design aesthetic that was truly global in its outlook, Enter Projects Asia sought to introduce their signature innovations, now iteratively perfected by the practice’s founder Patrick Keane, in the interiors of this premium gastro lounge located by the Chao Phraya Riverside in Bangkok as a rare thing of curvilinear beauty. Just as the world shut its doors and went into lockdown earlier this year, the firm that now has its unique work in ‘The Rattan Project’ globally recognised, were able to complete the interiors at ‘Spice and Barley’ early in March this year. However, it wasn’t until later in November that the restaurant was able to open its doors, and its 30m high glass façade, to the public.
Envisioned as a high-end gastro lounge serving South East Asian cuisine by celebrity chef Sam Leong, paired with exclusive craft beers imported from Belgium, the restaurant and its owners at Minor International found near perfect coherence with Enter Projects Asia in leading their brief to fruition. The result is not just an instant eye catcher, but also something that is steeped in legend, international design, and local craft. The concept for the billowing tree-like columns was based around the adventures of three sisters, May, Zaza and Fei, who were born in Sichuan decades earlier. Upon further exploration of the urban legend, Enter Projects Asia led by Patrick Keane developed an overarching design narrative that they then interweaved in rattan as a “complex web of free flowing, statuesque structures, as intoxicating as the characters themselves".
While the imagery of the three sisters lay in the backdrop of its 30m high glazed façade, the foreground is framed, and nearly completely stolen by the computationally designed liquid geometry, given form in one of the most sustainable materials in construction today; rattan - a naturally renewable palm that is quintessentially Asian, African and Australasian in its roots. The two tall towers, essentially cuboidal in structure and framed by the flowing rattan, also pay reverence to the high towers in the backdrop, reflected at the restaurant’s vast glazing. The ‘shell’ so formed is not just a scene stealer, but also effectively conceals beer pipes, HVAC fixtures and connections, and other services.
The form of the rattan columns has dual connotations here: it also mimics the flowing craft beer as it is poured into a glass, affirming 'Spice and Barley’s anchorage as a premium Belgian craft beer destination in Bangkok. As stated, the fluid geometry realised in rattan is now a signature of the firm’s work under its innovative eco-drive, ‘The Rattan Project’ that fuses local craft and material with post-modern, computational design sensibilities and methods. The rattan in the columns doesn’t terminate but swarms the ceiling, uninterrupted, twisting and twirling its way in undulating waves to culminate in an overall rectangular footprint. The rattan is painted in gold to reflect and flood the interiors in an instantly emanable warm light, while the rattan also finds extensive usage in other elements in the restaurant’s interiors: wall panels, cladding, and screens, essentially paying homage to an “Asian Fusion” style of architecture and interior decoration.