Sydney – Ramen is far from a perfect picnic food. It’s hard to talk mid-slurp and even harder to share a serving with another: downing a bowl begs one-on-one immersion with the dish and a steady table. But with Wagaya, a new ramen eatery in a Sydney shopping centre, one is able to picnic indoors comfortably, accompanied or alone.
The design of Wagaya was inspired by Hanami, the Japanese festival that celebrates the ephemerality of cherry blossoms with country-wide picnics beneath their trees. To honour the tradition, Australian studio Span Design aimed to create a sensory dining space that could capture the seasonal experience year-round.
The studio took advantage of the original structure of the interior and designed a tunnel-like passage to induce an immersive atmosphere, open and intimate at the same time. Video mapping projection was used to give the illusion of blossoms softly dancing and falling upon diners; the pink walls are a stage for them to do so. Contrasting cobalt blue tiles, on the other hand, tend toward the bold, giving texture and depth.
Around the kitchen area, the studio introduced perforated timber panels to heighten the perception of culinary aromas wafting through the space. Whether one visits Wagaya for the blossoms or the broth, they’ll be compelled to stay because of how each work to activate the other.
Last year, design collective A Work of Substance also used colour and a semi-circular structure in designing an Ebisoba Ichigen ramen space in Hong Kong. The aesthetic parallels between the two immersive restaurants speak to the sensory experience of eating ramen: like the spatial concept behind Wagaya, the act of eating the dish itself is both open and intimate. The two restaurants deliver a seamless experience to their diners because their design inherently respects and reflects the cuisine they serve up.