Sunday, November 27, 2011


Photo courtesy Kengo Kuma and Associates.


As he did in his acclaimed Suntory Art Museum , Kengo Kuma was once again able to propose modern architecture but using the subtle minimalism of the traditional Japanese architecture for the Steakhouse Omi, a small restaurant located at the Kyoto International Hotel (Kyoto Kokusai Hotel) . It is not a cold, insensitive minimalism , but, despite its simplicity, it manages to convey a friendly atmosphere based on textures, lighting and integration into the neighbor garden.


The Kyoto Kokusai Hotel is located in front of the Nijo Castle in Kyoto. The hotel is arranged around a central garden of square proportions. A couple of restaurants face the garden and each other, one of them is the Omi Steakhouse designed by Kuma.


In addition to being integrated into the hotel lobby, the restaurant has a direct and independent access from the street. Kuma defined it by a fence of bamboo and straw evoking the traditional shiba-gaki , accompanied by a leaning screen composed of thin wooden rods. This panel, which sits on a bed of gravel stone, provides a transition between transparency and opacity.

Views from the street access.

Views of the access from the lobby, to which the restaurant is separated by another semi-transparent screen.

Once inside the restaurant, preceded by a separated by a genkan or lobby where footwear is removed, the first thing that impresses the visitor is the full visual integration with the garden, through a longitudinal window. The columns supporting the structure of the hotel, have been covered by mirrors, thus visually multiplying the vegetation of the garden.

A reception separates the eating area, which is not visible until one approaches at it.

The concept is pretty simple, but it is still impressive. It is a square dinning room, which ​​almost completely surrounds the cooking area. Only a small door communicates the latter with the kitchen .

The dinning area has been elevated to the clients sit on the tatami floor, as mandated by the etiquette in Japan, but at the same time they are able to stretch their legs. A grill bar, where the meat is fried, surrounds the cooking area, right in front of the diners.

Photo courtesy Kengo Kuma and Associates.

Here the architect uses a volume attached to the ceiling to accommodate smoke extractors, whose surface has been coated with a metallic finish that recalls the wabi sabi or art of things unfinished.

The lighting, subtle but carefully located, focuses both on a paper wall and at the junction of ceiling and the walls. The dim lighting produces various types of shades, which afford intimate drama and lightness to the room.

The ceiling is covered by a slatted frame that is characteristic of the architect's work, and that extends into the garden, emphasizing the integration between the inside and the outside, between the artificial and the natural.



In my opinion, Kengo Kuma is currently one of the architects that best combine modernity with tradition in Japanese architecture.

- OTHER WORKS by Kengo Kuma
For travelers who are Kyoto for a few days and want to visit this restaurant but have a somewhat limited budget, I recommend going for lunch, since dinner here can be very expensive.

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