Text description provided by the architects. The ancients set considerable store by diet, emphasizing the right food depending on the four seasons. Specific combinations were required to do justice to the season and occasion. “Yuan” means “antique” in Chinese, indicating a life of simplicity, truthfulness and sincerity like that lived by the ancients. “Antique” also implies familiarity, as well as the warmhearted kindness of old friends. So, Yuangu is as unique as its name. Its seasonal changes and desserts bring one face to face with the romance and beauty of the vicissitudes.
Its uniqueness is also seen in site selection. Previously, Yuangu chose to be hidden deep in the hutong, for retired leisure championed by the concept of “Chinese style.” However, this store is located in Shine Hills, an internationalized commercial complex developed by COFCO. To address the collision between tradition and fashion because of the shift from a traditional ambience to a modern one, we have to integrate the seclusion of “hutong” into the “worldliness” and preserve the serenity amid the hive of activities, so as to preserve the unique rhythm of “serene enjoyment of life.”
To the right of the main entrance, an out-swinging collapsible window has been deployed, blurring the indoor and outdoor boundary, increasing air flow indoor, and enriching the seating arrangement. Some say that the pigeon whistle is reminiscent of old Beijing... Luckily, the store adjoins a pigeon square. Sit beside the window in the opportune seasons, and one can look up and enjoy the sight of “white feathers silhouetted against the azure sky” as pigeons take to their wings. Nothing is more blissful a treat.
The restaurant is only 90 square meters in area. Aside from the kitchen, it is only 75 square meters. The narrow space, together with single-sided lighting and the shadow of an escalator outside, has been challenging for the designer, as well as inspirational. Considering that light can reach indoors from one side, we have adopted the arrangement of theater steps, dividing the indoor space into the anterior, the middle and the innermost section by raising the floor successively. This way, we have managed to reduce the natural darkness of the innermost space, so that guests seated deepest inside can also enjoy the calmness and warmth of light and shadow.
In order to highlight the antiquity, we have sprayed an art paint containing “wheat straws,” so that the gray and white may set each other off.
Although the space is small, the fun is indeed multiplied. In designing the spatial pattern, we have borrowed the technique of “visual augmentation and winding path for a secluded spot” commonly used in Chinese gardens to expand the “conscious area,” by drawing on the interaction between time and space.
The Chinese-style grille is adopted, ingeniously creating spaces of different dimension along a tortuous passage, to increase the time of walking. The sunrays shine in through the screen at different times, while the guests move through the light and shadow. The light and shadow combine with the moving and the static to create moments of touching scenes of antiquity.
The innermost space is raised to form a relatively independent private space.
There is no small verdant courtyard of the hutong, but the screens materialize the elegance and romance in the life of ancients, as well as the serene bliss of life much sought after. The choice desserts and the lasting romance of Yuangu are waiting for you to find out!