Text provided by the architects
The Four Seasons team invited Kokaistudios in 2016 to conceive an innovative F&B product that could integrate breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, fine dining and lounge in one space.
Adding to the already difficult design task was the challenge to create a successful destination not limited to the resort guests that serves French inspired fine cuisine in the city of Kyoto; known domestically and internationally as a traditional temple of Japanese food culture. The new hotel is located in the UNESCO protected area of the temples of Kyoto at the base of the mountains and faces a historical traditional Japanese pond surrounded by a magnificent heritage ikeniwa garden. The restaurant positioned between the arrival lobby and the garden is the core of the public space of the hotel becoming in this way the main representative space of the entire resort. For this reason we conceived the space on with a strong architectural strategy by using the Kyoto traditional system to connect indoor to outdoor creating a large architectural feature that frames the view of the garden from the lobby level all over the restaurant at the level below. In this way the long facade between the restaurant and the garden located on the north side of the hotel become a transparent diaphragm that transmit the indirect light reflected by the garden pond and trees creating a magic contemplative mood in the restaurant space.
The layout of the restaurant has been developed by unifying under the large architectural frame three different functions, a lounge area at the arrival, a central bar and banquette counter and a more private fine dining area. The access to the restaurant has two different entrances’; the main entrance is directly connected to the upper level lobby through a special staircase designed as a main sculptural feature capable to become a visible milestone and drive the public guests directly from the main entrance of the hotel through the dramatic double height space looking at the garden down to the lounge area. The second, more private entrance for hotel guests is located on the restaurant level and is designed as a path through a series of experiences, from the lift lobby where a stone garden designed in cooperation with Japanese artist Ramon Todo welcomes the guests in a spectacular view of the garden and a carved stone tunnel that drives to the restaurant door. The lounge area welcomes the guests in a spectacular double height space with nine meters high ceilings which has been conceived an intimate area defined by a central fire place and a custom made carpet developed in cooperation with Taiping that creates a three-dimensional wave effect typical of the traditional Kyoto stone Zen gardens.
In the center of the restaurant has been designed a unique and original bar area integrating inside an iconic stone platform traditional Japanese style bar and a buffet counter flexible to be used in the morning for breakfast and during the rest of the day as a food display or a decorative sets for the late night. The bar counter is a pure stone mass carved with unique Japanese craftsmanship technique finished with a precious massive wooden table 15 meters long selected exclusively for this project. On the side of the bar we located around a central fireplace a more private area for fine dining completed by a series of custom made banquette seats conceived as bamboo nests where guests can appreciate the full view of the garden maintaining a strong sense of intimacy. At the end of the restaurant we placed a special feature for display of wines that transforms from a delicate decoration during the day to a glittering iconic spotlight during the night.
The design of this project is a new step in Kokaistudios method of combining a strong architectural approach to the design of interiors with an original use of materials and light to create unexpected subtle emphatic feeling between the space and the people; handcrafted materials shaped and controlled up to the finest detail interact and interplay with the both the day and night light and reveal an incredibly expressive power. Stone surfaces are hand hammered so to make them become visually and tactilely soft, wooden surfaces and treated in the same methodology as the traditional outdoor Japanese timbers, and special metal materials has been developed in cooperation with Japanese craftsmen so to make them reveal unusual and original artistic effects. For this unique project Kokaistudios created a series of custom designed furniture inspired by the traditional Japanese styles and revised with a contemporary attitude to optimize the comfort and create through the development of fine details a subtle sense of essential elegance. Inspired by the local traditional art of bamboo waving we design exclusively for this project a series of iconic seats crafted as large wooden nests that define in a unique way the character of the space and create a strong relation between indoor and outdoor. The terrace facing the magnificent pond has been designed in cooperation with the landscape design firm and hosts a series of seats conceived for a casual and flexible dining setup. Elegant outdoor seats from European manufacture Tribu combined with custom made nest seats and fine artistic designed tables contribute to create a unique feeling of empathy with the magic environment of the historical and traditional garden.