Stacking It Up

The Japanese design firm Sinato manages to cram several culinary experiences into a difficult space.


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The Tokyo-based design office Sinato is known for producing experimental one-room interiors with only a few design elements. In the renovation of a restaurant on the sunken ground floor of a three-story apartment building in a quiet, residential neighborhood in Tokyo, two contrasting partition walls make for an unusual spatial experience.

The restaurant, called +Green, is sunk five feet below street level and has a generous ceiling height of over 14 feet. “With such a unique space, the starting point of our design obviously was how to arrange the three different functions of an organic restaurant, a takeout, and a small grocery shop,” says Chikara Ohno, the 34-year-old director of Sinato.

He began solving the puzzle by locating the restaurant on the sunken level. Then, for practical reasons, the takeout was situated near the entrance in order to draw the attention of picnic-minded pedestrians on their way to nearby Komazawa Park. To light the restaurant with sunshine from the facade, Ohno placed the organic grocery shop diagonally across from the takeout, but lifted it close to two feet above that level, leaving just enough room to place the kitchen underneath. With facilities on four levels, visitors to +Green are kept constantly moving through the space.

A seven-foot-high brick wall that zigzags through the sunken ground level embraces a hallway and defines several different seating arrangements for the restaurant. The kitchen, toilets, storerooms, and one private dining room are hidden between this brick wall and the wall of the building. A spiraling wooden staircase leads up from the restaurant into the grocery store, bounded by a smooth, curving white wall that conceals the unfinished wall of the building as well as equipment like an air conditioner and piping. At the same time, the white wall also functions as a decorative element, adding patches of color through graphics and plants housed in little cutouts.

“Usually we divide a space either with a curved wall or a zigzag wall, but in +Green the two methods are piled up,” Ohno says. “When you are on the restaurant floor you are amid a space divided by right angles but you also slightly notice the curved lines above your head. In other words, you feel the shape of the space you are in, and at the same time sense the spaces you don’t yet belong to.”

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