Luke Edward Hall brings vintage Parisian glamour to Dubai with Josette restaurant
by Jincy IypeMar 16, 2023
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Zohra KhanPublished on : Jul 30, 2022
The smell of freshly baked pie, the sweet aroma of cream being whisked into an icy pink froth, windows opening onto the street tempting passersby to glimpses of slow baking, a life unencumbered by the stresses of today...Buenos Aires-based practice Hitzig Militello Architects found their muse in the evocative lightness of these memories when they set out to conceptualise the interiors of a local restaurant, named Moshu Treehouse. It was an old two-storey house located in the Palermo neighbourhood which they had to work around with.
The studio sought the spatial inspiration in the design of traditional patios that lined old houses in the city, spaces which were known for pulling people together. For the same intent of creating a social magnet, the architects decided to build a courtyard at the entrance and to work on the space around it, especially preserving the old façade. “From a functional perspective,” the studio shares, "the patio is integral to the takeaway model, while also exploring a post-COVID exterior use.”
The development of the patio gave rise to a new façade vocabulary that went on to become a defining feature of the restaurant. Offsetting the main wall, a metal grid enclosing multiple windows made of reclaimed timber populate the façade. Timber battens compose each of these windows and their arrangement includes a few flexible openings that could easily be opened and shut depending upon the weather. For the design team, the concept of this façade was to create "a symbol and shock effect" to those arriving at the entrance.
"The proposed language was the outcome of a thorough breakdown of defining elements within the gastronomic proposal, one that celebrates the typical American pastry shop," shares the design team. From the idea of "cooling the pie by the window" that manifested in the gridded window façade, the architects also replicated the forms of cakes and pies by creating an assemblage of cardboard rolls on walls. Upon entering the restaurant, one finds a semi-open courtyard peppered with wooden seating that leads to an indoor reception and bakery counter. The walls reveal plasterwork peeling off from surfaces revealing patches of exposed brickwork. The transition between the two spaces are through shutterless portals that are ornamented by arches made of different sizes of cardboard rolls. Behind the bakery counter too, these elements are replicated as accents offsetting the wall. Interestingly, a few openings within the rolls integrate light fixtures while some carry within its holes, a beater and a colander, which are essential tools of a baker.
The ground floor comprises a cafeteria and bakery with ample seating spread in and out, and the first floor houses a private lounge, a bar, and a terrace at the back. A distinguished feature on the ground floor is seen in the way how clusters of dry leaves take over lighting fixtures and the undersides of the ceiling much like nature reclaiming ruins. Speaking of the guiding thought and how it generated the materiality of the space, the design team explains, "The interior architecture language is a vernacular composition in the typical demolished industrial style. In fact, the word "demolished" itself denotes the idea of using elements simulating an "under construction" environment: wood from scaffolding, iron from construction sites, and metallic fabrics. These are all neutral materials comprising a universe of constructive layers. Surrounding them is a run-down, abandoned house where the dry vegetation has taken over."
An external staircase connects the second floor directly to the street. Here, the aesthetics present a more refined vocabulary where walls and surfaces are covered in wood and textile that complete the overarching warmth. The roof above the bar continues the abandoned effect of the ground floor by showcasing a netted skin that contains within it several bunches of dry leaves.
It's intriguing to see how an old home which went through a complete overhaul has actually been conceptualised to look much dated and even deprived of any human contact; all this to serve a contrarian function of calling people together and celebrating the spirit of the city. The 240 sqm restaurant takes its name from a “Lagerstroemia tree”, which sits in the centre of the outer courtyard, while the wooden elements surrounding it connects it to a treehouse.
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