by Anushka SharmaMar 14, 2023
Snøhetta has opened its first ever project in Tokyo, Japan, with Burnside, an informal art and culinary space that marries the food culture of two diverse cities, Bronx and Tokyo, in its all-black interiors. The 92.9 sqm chef-driven casual café performs as an eatery by day and a bar and lounge by night, located on the second floor of a family mart in Harajuku. The district is hailed as Tokyo’s centre of street culture and art scene. The intimate, monochromatic restaurant has been designed for en one tokyo, an art and design collective, with inputs from Bronx-based food, design and art group Ghetto Gastro, in collaboration with local firm kooo architects.
Since their inception in 2012, Ghetto Gastro is known to put Bronx as the inspiration, catalyst and explorative channel for global food culture, and the Burnside follows that verve, “using food to empower communities”. All their spaces are elevated in a similar monochromatic, ‘black’ palette, with a subtle feature of art installations. The inclusion of the Japanese architectural element Shou Sugi Ban timber (charring wood as a way of treating it) and the cultural, dark setting of bars is also referenced here.
“Inspired by this intersection of cultures, Snøhetta, en one tokyo, Ghetto Gastro, and kooo architects have teamed up with artisanal, handmade sound system designer Devon Turnbull (Ojas), and flower artist Makoto Azuma to create an unparalleled dining and social experience that combines the elements of a bodega with a bar,” states the design team.
NY style bodegas and Japanese conbinis (convenience stores) are a shared cultural thread for both cities, reveling in their mainstay common space in the cities’ urban fabric. Burnside Tokyo takes inspiration from the conbini style, its ease of takeaway and compact design.
The restaurant design, like many in Tokyo, packs a punch in its small floor space, with one stepping into the dining room and the slightly raised open kitchen with a U-layout upon arrival. A long table continues down from the kitchen island, transforming into a seating space surrounded by bare black walls. Fabric lined windows take up an entire wall, letting in daylight, elevating the vibe of the buzzing café during the day. At night, these windows filter in streetlight from below to oomph up the atmospheric, dusky lounge. The interiors are decorated with ash wood, arches and delicate decals, driven by the “transition between day and night, café and lounge”, reveals Snøhetta.
Two arches overlap to create the café, dining area and kitchen, with open views across all three, blurring the differentiation between the front and back areas. The matte black material and colour palette hosts faint, coloured accents in the form of a floral sculpture called Block Flowers by Japanese artist Makoto Azuma that hangs behind the bar, and the amber coloured rod lighting that curves overhead, referencing the heat of a Japanese cooking grill.
The 30-seater dining room is fitted with custom designed, family-style tables that coalesce and fold away to clear up space for more layouts such as a dance floor for late night parties. “The dining room culminates in a proscenium arch at the pass table, where back-of-house and front-of-house intersect. This central pass table becomes the hearth of the kitchen at the project’s center,” observes the Norwegian architectural and design firm.
Beyond this space lies the open kitchen layout, designed with inputs from Ghetto Gastro, that centres itself around the chef’s activity, the culinary feats of heat, smoke and fire. “The overall flexibility of the design and layout ensures that the space accommodates a wide variety of pop-up uses and events,” they continue.
“Burnside is a unique collaboration that has culminated in a flexible, creative destination for Harajuku’s artistic milieu. Whether hosting an up-and-coming chef, serving as a casual coffeehouse, or throwing a release party, guests will feel transported by this sleek intersection of Tokyo and the Bronx,” say Anne-Rachel Schiffmann and Mzwakhe Ndlovu, from Snøhetta’s interior design team.
Name: Tokyo Burnside
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Area: 92.9 sqm
Client: En One
Interior Design: Snøhetta - Anne-Rachel Schiffmann, Mzwakhe Ndlovu
Local Architect: kooo architects
Collaborators: Ghetto Gastro, Devon Turnbull, Makato Azuma