OEO Studio has just completed the design of a new restaurant in Tokyo called INUA - from the Inuit term for the life force that runs through nature. The restaurant, with former noma chef Thomas Frebel at the helm, is a partnership with Rene Redzepi and Japan's Kadokawa Corporation.
INUA is located on the ninth floor of a new KADOKAWA building in the Iidabashi area of Tokyo. Frebel, the former chef and head of research and development at noma in Copenhagen has devised an ever-changing menu that reflects Japan's seasons, rich culture and diverse landscape. It will celebrate local and wild Japanese ingredients in a way that is respectful to their origin but shaped by techniques and influences from around the world.
Tasked with creating a clear link to Japan as well as referencing noma's Nordic heritage, as with the menu, OEO Studio, in collaboration with Frebel, have devised a design concept for the new 700m2 restaurant that fuses Japanese and Nordic sensibilities, to bring about a refined blend of craftsmanship, materiality and architecture. OEO Studio has worked with local materials as well as Japanese-inspired details interpreted with a Nordic twist in novel and unexpected ways. The result is a Japanese/Nordic aesthetic and atmosphere.
Due to the architecture of the building and the journey from street-level to the ninth floor, OEO Studio were tasked with seamlessly designing the diner's journey, from front door to table. As a starting point, the designers stripped the space back to its core structure, keeping only the original glass façade that offers mesmerizing panoramic views of the Tokyo skyline.
For the restaurant design, OEO Studio reinterpreted Japanese characteristics and modern Scandinavian design to produce a sophisticated urban feel. A welcoming and unexpected space in the heart of bustling Tokyo, the design provides a dynamic backdrop to showcase the INUA spirit and celebrate the color scheme, textures, and unique compositions of its menu in a transformative environment where guests can feel at ease.
On the second-floor entrance area of the restaurant, OEO Studio has constructed a 30-meter wall featuring a diagonal pattern created using a dense and highly textured super matt Japanese plaster technique. The subtle pattern gives a hint of direction and guides guests down the long hallway that also features cloud-like celling lamps by French artist Celine Wright.
The concrete floor features a graphic and bold interpretation of Japanese stepping stones - the pattern is fluid and designed to guide the guest to the ninth-floor dining room.
Upon arrival at the restaurant, guests are met with an open-topped tactile wall comprised of a seemingly random structure of solid and semi-open bricks offering glimpses of the dining area beyond. This element of playful architectural is designed to add life to the space.
Paying careful attention to the qualities of the space, OEO Studio has balanced the bustle of a busy restaurant, kitchen and bar with a bespoke acoustic ceiling using exquisite Nishijin fabric from Japanese textile maker, and long-time OEO Studio collaborator, HOSOO.
Enhancing the overall interior design, the ceiling grid and design are inspired by the mathematics and lines of tatami flooring and the ceiling uses a transitional color scheme that varies from the welcome area, lounge and bar to the dining area and the private dining room.
A color palette of muted warm grey hues, blue, green and burnt clay tones run throughout all areas of the restaurant, with darker and lighter shades used to divide the space and provide ambient zoning.
The restaurant and bar design, which can seat 60, comprises a mix of dining-height and high counter seating offering a range of views out across the city skyline. In the restaurant, OEO Studio designed the new Jari dining table series with table tops resembling pebbles softly shaped by water and nature over time. The Jari tables were designed to complement the Hiroshima and Kamuy chairs from Naoto Fukasawa in new bespoke color ways.
In the private dining room, the Jari dining chair, also designed by OEO Studio, offers the utmost level of comfort and durability for 12 guests around a 4.5m long bespoke table. The bar also features the OEO-designed Pauline barstools alongside celebrated designs such as the Japan chairs and sofa by Finn Juhl.
The Jari chair and collection of tables are the latest pieces of furniture designed by OEO Studio with Danish brand Brdr. Krüger. This ongoing collaboration with the 5th generation furniture maker combines Brdr. Krüger's understanding of materials and woodturning skills with OEO Studio's signature and contemporary design language.
A considered restaurant lighting scheme is comprised of both mood and technical solutions, which blend perfectly to support the entire spatial experience. Custom-designed directional spotlights made in Japan are teamed with soft mood lighting. Black oxidized copper lamps crafted by Kyoto-based Kaikado sit above the bar and the restaurant's open plan kitchen counter and elsewhere there are designs by American Apparatus, iconic lamps by Frank Lloyd Wright, Akari lanterns by Isamu Noguchi, and lights by Santa & Cole and Frank Gehry.
Photography: Michinori Aoki