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Commune Bistro by Pencil Office

Delicately handled bricks shape a gently illuminated, timeless dining experience in Singapore’s historic Phoenix Park complex.

Commune Bistro by Pencil Office


November 14th, 2012

Perforated brick walls envelop the calm domain that is Commune Bistro. Yet a direct reference to the ventilated screens of traditional tropical architectural forms was not an initial intention of its designers.

“We enjoy the implication, though,” says Erik G. L’Heureux, lead design consultant at Pencil Office. “The design solution is neither new nor old. This is a quality we’ve been searching for in our recent design work.”

Commune Bistro by Pencil Office

Commune Bistro, which opened in Singapore’s Phoenix Park complex in August 2012, serves breakfast, lunch, and café-style refreshments. Soon it will open for dinner and evening cocktails. Thus, it required an interior identity that would successfully transfer across different times of day and levels of formality. Comfort, elegance, ease of construction and a low budget were called for by the owners.

L’Heureux created an interior skin of stacked, white-painted bricks, set in from the existing walls and concealing the existing mechanical and fire suppression systems as well as some of the less pleasant views. “It allows natural light and ventilation in, and sets the tone for a diffuse atmosphere,” he says.

Commune Bistro by Pencil Office

Alternating rows of bricks are placed perpendicularly at variable positions to create subtle undulations in the walls. “It’s a small detail,” comments L’Heureux, “but it adds to the overall effect with strategic details at just the right places.” Brick was selected as a chief material for its ease of installation, inexpensiveness and durability.

“Much time and effort was put into ensuring that the walls were dimensioned to the brick proportion and size,” adds L’Heureux. “We also spent a lot of time on the lighting, selecting special fittings to illuminate the tables very gently, just as the walls produce a diffuse lighting effect.”

Commune Bistro by Pencil Office

The studio’s efforts have paid off. During the day one might discern the visual impression that the walls are somehow levitating. Meanwhile, the purposefully dark furniture achieves maximum contrast and anchors customers to their dining experience.

Commune Bistro by Pencil Office

Refined recessed downlights produce a gentle, even light, and linear incandescent fittings around the bar glow warmly. “Set in ceramic fittings, they allude to another age yet are also contemporary,” says L’Heureux of the latter. Logo inlays in the floor and tables create a consistent brand awareness throughout the interior.

Commune Bistro by Pencil Office

Phoenix Park, a complex of post-war vintage office buildings originally constructed for the British administration, was recently named a ’Historic Site’ by Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs and National Heritage Board. The announcement makes the timelessness of Commune Bistro seem all the more appropriate. One might think the establishment had always resided in its white-painted block.

Pencil Office

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