[CL3 Architects] Nishimura Restaurant

Nishimura Restaurant_ CL3 Architects

Beijing, China


This is an excerpt of an article from the September 2008 edition of Architectural Record.


In a place like Beijing, where anything goes, designers often bring in art installations or bold flower arrangements to add verve to upscale interiors. But in their design of Nishimura, a Japanese restaurant on the second floor of Beijing’s Shangri-La Hotel, the architects at CL3 had no use for add-ons. Using mostly wood, the Hong Kong–based firm turned architecture into sculpture, creating a place that blurs the line between design and art.


We try to avoid just buying artwork at the end of a design and putting it everywhere,” says William Lim, managing director of CL3, which Shangri-La invited to redesign Nishimura as part of a larger project that included the renovation of the existing hotel and the addition of an adjacent 142-room tower. In Hong Kong, CL3 had designed two branches of Nadaman, a Japanese restaurant, in Shangri-La hotels, bringing in a consultant to contribute stark dry floral arrangements. “But here we didn’t work with another artist. Instead, we built art into our design,” explains Lim.


Entering the 5,400-square-foot restaurant, visitors check in with the maître d’ at an oak-colored travertine desk connected to a raised pool (made of the same travertine). Through a screen of dark elm slats, they see a sake bar and get an oblique view of a 26-foot-long partition assembled from 1,000 sheets of engineered plywood. As they approach the partition, which separates the bar from a dining area, guests encounter the restaurant’s coup de grâce: a pair of curvaceous openings dug into the 4-foot-thick wall. One cutout begins as a wide oval then narrows to a moon-shaped hole on the opposite side—as if a giant knot had been gracefully excised from an oversize chunk of lumber—while the other starts narrow and goes wide. The result gives patrons on both sides of the wall tantalizing, shifting views. Workers spent weeks laminating the precut sheets of plywood, then sanding and smoothing them with wax. Apart from its aesthetic attraction, the partition serves as a clever way of hiding two structural elements: a low beam and a large column.


Lim’s inspirations—Japanese gardens and the changing seasons—led him to plant dried cherry trees in beds of white pebbles in places such as the teppanyaki room and to use a limited range of wooden tones that signal a shift from cool to warm. The sun peeks into the restaurant through a skylight in one of the dining areas.


Formal name of building: Interior Project: Nishimura Restaurant



2/F, Shangri-La Hotel Beijing

29 Zizhuyuan Road

Beijing 100089, China


Completion Date: April 2007

Gross square footage: 498.6 m² sq.ft.

Owner: Beijing Shangri-La Hotel Limited


CL3 Architects Limited

7/F, Hong Kong Arts Centre,

2 Harbour Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong

Phone : (852) 2527 1931

Fax : (852) 2529 8392


Designed by JB FACTORY