Faced with a challenging site, a studio shows how design can thrive despite limitation

Shenzhen, China – As the saying goes, the enemy of art is the absence of limitations. Frank Gehry’s said it, Charles Eames reportedly lived by it and now Shenzhen-based studio Various Associates has designed Voisin Organique, an Ecocert-certified farm-to-table restaurant confirming the adage: there are virtues found in constraint. Faced with challenging site restrictions – limited natural daylight, an L-shaped floor plan, an intrusive flue, varying height differences – the designers nevertheless conceived an inventive copper interior fit for the finest of Chinese dining.

The designers liken the journey through their interior to that of wandering a valley – perhaps a surprising comparison, considering the restaurant is located in Shenzhen, one of China’s largest metropoles. Spend a moment longer analysing the lounge area, and the visual analogy becomes clear: abstracted, the two suspended ceilings create a canyon-like depression. Throughout the restaurant Various Associates continued their references to the living world, establishing nature as the ultimate design precedent.

Voisin Organique’s façade is the portal to this otherworldly land. The towering bronze exterior is blank except for six pop-out shutters. Hinged from the top, these shutters lift up to allow slits of light into the interior. Bespoke convex lenses fixed atop offer passers by warped glimpses into the interior within.

The entrance is a large, double-height space where an obtrusive flue was originally visible in the corner. As the HVAC feature couldn’t be dismantled, the designers covered it in a metallic mineral wrapping, adding another visual dimension to the expansive space. This wrapping was continued in other areas of the interior, namely on the ceiling and statement walls. Combined with diffused light achieved from roof apertures, the shining finish evokes a mist-like ambience.

By coating the ceiling in a deep red, adding rough-textured walls and populating the space with pure-black furniture, the designers created a sense of solemnity and occasion. These features, coupled with striking beams cast from the skylights, establish an aesthetically dramatic rendition of design that thrives despite limitations.


Location S209, L2 Floor, Upper Hills, Futian District, Shenzhen, China

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