Happy Panda / Hou de Sousa

Courtesy of Hou de Sousa & Jay Vandermeer

Architects: Hou de Sousa
Location: , Pichincha,
Design Team: Nancy Hou, Josh de Sousa
Contractor: Hou de Sousa
Area: 200 sqm
Year: 2013
Photographs: Courtesy of Hou de Sousa & Jay Vandermeer

Courtesy of Hou de Sousa & Jay Vandermeer

From the architect. Happy Panda is a new restaurant located within the Paseo San Francisco shopping center in Cumbaya (a district of Quito, Ecuador). The existing site was a long and narrow shoe box shaped volume. Our analysis of the client’s needs revealed that in order to best serve different customer types, a private dining space was required in addition to a larger and more public dining area. We split the dining space in two by placing the service areas in between. The private space was placed in the back, while the public dining area faces the entrance. This had the added benefit of improving the overall proportions and feel of the space, which otherwise would have been overly stretched and corridor-like. We also raised the kitchen onto a mezzanine level in order to free up more space for seating and a bar.

Courtesy of Hou de Sousa & Jay Vandermeer

The project schedule was swift, and necessitated expedient methods of construction. While resources and materials for small scale construction is somewhat limited in Ecuador, the dramatic boom of the advertising and signage industries there has lead to a proliferation of CNC machines, laser cutters, and large scale printers. A key priority when designing the project was to make use of these technologies, so as to minimize the need for skilled labor and reduce construction time and cost. This strategy is most evident on the walls featuring the Chinese scroll painting, Qingming Shanghe Tu, or Along the River During the Qingming Festival. Originally painted by Zhang Zeduan during the Song Dynasty over 900 years ago, its acclaim led to many reinterpretations commissioned by subsequent dynasties. Our studio’s homage has been digitally altered, selectively cropped, blown up to the scale of wall paper, and then printed and installed by a billboard advertisement company.

Courtesy of Hou de Sousa & Jay Vandermeer

The ceiling is composed of CNC cut plywood and heavyweight interfacing (a fabric used to stiffen dresses and suits). The plywood was precisely cut to fit and suspend from a set of hidden steel trusses. The form of the ceiling and the spaces it creates was inspired by Chinese temples. We simplified and flattened the geometry of these temples into silhouettes, which were extruded and then subtracted from a mass. Through this process, we reversed the condition of viewing a temple from its exterior as an object in space, to that of inhabiting a space defined by the mould or negative of a temple’s form. The ceiling is a continuous surface that smoothly transitions between the high dining room spaces and the low service area. This allows users to experience a fluid expansion and compression of space as they walk through the restaurant.

Courtesy of Hou de Sousa & Jay Vandermeer

The influence of traditional Chinese design is also present at a much smaller scale. We modified a wave pattern, which is typically found on Chinese glazed pottery, into a polar array of dots. Making use of a variety of materials and techniques, the pattern was adapted to several purposes. Between booths, there are white acrylic privacy screens with the dots laser cut out of them. The holes are large enough that the figures of people on the other side of a screen are noticeable but small enough that their features and identities are obscured. On the glowing surface of the bar, the dot pattern provides a tonal contrast and casts faint shadows. In the private room, a wall is lined with MDF panels that were perforated with a CNC router over 50,000 times to carve a graphic pattern with depth and texture.

Courtesy of Hou de Sousa & Jay Vandermeer

We aimed for the restaurant to be warm, inviting, and in a sense, weightless. LEDs were used along the edges of the ceiling to visually detach it from the walls. The steel trusses that suspend the ceiling below it are completely hidden. The intention was for the ceiling to appear as light as a sheet of fabric that has been pinched upwards to create a space below it. A point grid of custom lighting fixtures floats below the ceiling on chrome pipes. The built in booths and tables are detailed so that they appear to hover off the floor.

Floor Plan

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Cite: "Happy Panda / Hou de Sousa" 17 Aug 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 Oct 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=415693>
  • G. Valdivieso

    I have been to this restaurant. It is great, but the side images are very pixeled when you are up close. It doesn’t look that great when you are dining.

    • veritech pilot

      that sounds like a grave and relevant concern. maybe someone should alert the authorities.

  • G. Valdivieso

    After visiting the Dim Sum Bar, i was really excited when I heard the same design team was doing the happy panda restaurant. In their other restaurant located in Quito, i had been amazed with the superb design and attention to detail, especially in the splendid bar. I was delighted with such a well made Project . When Happy Panda Restaurant finally opened I thought they did an amazing job and liked it very much; the reason I started my comment saying it was great. My previous observation was made because I didn’t expect such a high-quality design be overshadowed for a poor quality image for the wallpaper. I didn’t expect to see this kind of small errors after a near perfect design in Dim Sum Bar. From your response, I now know I was wrong to expect this attention to quality and detail again and even worst to try to pass my concern and opinion thru an architecture blog. I’m sorry if my harsh vocabulary or wrong meaningless critic was so profound for you to take it personal and use offensive and sarcastic language to respond, instead as taking it as such. Again, take my apology for my comment, and congratulation Hou de Sausa on another fine example of design rare to this country.