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Where Ethnic and Contemporary Culture Meet

Steering clear of thematic design clichés, TOPOS Design Studio brings out the authentic identity of an Indian fine dining restaurant in the National Gallery Singapore.

Where Ethnic and Contemporary Culture Meet

With a steadfast philosophy that simplicity does not need to equate to lacklustre or boring design, architectural firm TOPOS Design Studio has crafted a niche in the architectural industry with its attention to detail and its unique solutions that aim to go beyond the expected norms in design.

True to the firm’s ethos, TOPOS’ latest project, the SAHA restaurant at National Gallery Singapore, relies on fine grain detailing and experiential design to convey the personality of the client and the restaurant. With the project bagging two GOLD Awards in the F&B category at the recent Design Excellence Awards 2016, TOPOS’ modern take on Indian culture at SAHA sets up a poignant experience rooted in Indian history and cuisine, without reverting to overtly stereotypical designs to convey the cultural connotations of the restaurant.

Says TOPOS Design Studio Executive Director Alan Fan about the initial design brief, “The client envisioned a place that was traditionally recognisable yet progressively modern, with dark wood, conducive lighting ambience and a large wine storage display fridge wall in view from the main and private dining spaces – all within a specific budget.”

With meticulous attentiveness to space and form as definitive to the identity of SAHA, TOPOS worked closely with the restaurant’s team to allow the intended culinary experience to translate into the design of the space. Much like SAHA’s Indian fusion cuisine, the juxtaposition of traditional Indian and contemporary elements became an effort of balance that translated into the overall design.

Befitting a true fine dining experience, Fan and his design team created a grand entry to give an anticipated sense of arrival into the main space and build a distinction between the waiting and dining areas. The sliding gateway door became a feature of its own, with the combination of CNC engraved traditional Indian motifs, contemporary design elements and technology bringing out the Indian identity of the restaurant in a fresh and modern way.

Says Fan, “The restaurant was designed with a conscious approach to subtle representation of Indian-inspired artefacts with a slight modern design twist in the fine grain design and detailing.”

Continuing the approach of restrained integration of Indian inspired elements in the overall design, TOPOS’ ingenuity came through in the poignant features of the restaurant’s dining spaces. The copper earthy tones of the interiors, including the bronze diamond mirror patterns, were influenced by the colours and patterns on the copper pot vessels widely used in Indian food preparation. Similarly, TOPOS carefully selected wall fabric patterns to represent iconic cultural elements and create a three-dimensional sensory experience within the space.

“We have integrated four senses into the design – the food, the décor, the specially curated fragrance and the music – to ensure that SAHA’s customers take away a sense of complete fulfilment and gratification with the desire to return and re-experience the whole dining process again,” says Fan.

Aiming to break the mould with a contemporary take on what could have been another traditional answer to ethnic authenticity, TOPOS’ design of SAHA challenges visitors to find beauty in the details that do not rely on overtly loud gestures to make a point.


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