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Cultural fusion: Tang Hotpot by New Practice Studio

The cultural and culinary prowess of New York City and Chinese Tang Dynasty are fused together in Tang Hotpot, designed by New Practice Studio.

New York City and Chinese Tang Dynasty may seem like worlds and centuries apart, but they are fused together in Tang Hotpot, a restaurant designed by New Practice Studio.

“Tang Hotpot is conceived as a place of ‘reversed fusion,’ where contemporary design is assimilated into an ancient dining tradition to create an exciting experience of both history and modernity,” says Nianlai Zhong, founding partner and principal at New Practice Studio.

Tang Hotpot specialises in the ultra-spicy hotpot that is authentic to Chengdu, Sichuan. The client engaged New Practice Studio to design the interior, branding and visual identity, with a concept that blends ancient tradition with contemporary design. “The design concept was to create a familiarly exotic environment for New Yorkers to taste a traditional Asian cuisine,” says Nianlai. “The inspiration came from Chinese Tang Dynasty, where the culture from the East and West were highly integrated together.”

Tang Dynasty was considered a golden age of Chinese arts and culture, spanning the seventh to tenth centuries. Poetry, painting, literature and sculpture flourished during the Tang Empire, as did the simmering hot pot. New Practice Studio incorporated painting and sculpture into the design of the restaurant with materials familiar in Western restaurants, and colours that reference artwork from Tang Dynasty.

Typical to New York, the restaurant is a long and narrow space with a bar at the front and dining room at the rear. The dark ceiling and walnut-lined walls create the sense of a tunnel in the entrance and bar, with copper tubing wrapping around the space and custom-made ceramics on the bar shelves.

The dining hall has a lofty six-metre-high ceiling, and timber joinery that frames the existing brick walls. Ribbons of copper mesh fabric float above the dining tables, adding softness and layers of transparency, and shimmering copper pots are crafted by traditional artisans. Marble hotpot tables are surrounded by semi-circular chartreuse-coloured banquettes upholstered with fabric painted with the Tang Dynasty palette.

A mural by artist Xu Han takes pride of place on the rear wall and is a contemporary interpretation of a Tang Dynasty painting. Four Tang-court women are cooking and eating modern hotpot and enjoying beer and wine. A private dining mezzanine has a view overlooking the mural, main dining area and busy Chinatown streets, fusing the worlds and centuries of Tang Dynasty and New York City.

Photography by Montse Zamorano.

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