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Kemuri, Garden Plaza, Shanghai, China

Issue 75 October / November 2013 : Retail : Restaurant

LIGHTING DESIGN: Prism Design LIGHTING SUPPLIER: NVC Lighting Technology Corporation PHOTOGRAPHY: © Nacasa & Partners Inc, Eiichi Kano

In Japanese the word ‘kemuri’ means smoke. Inspired by the Kill Bill films, the new Kemuri restaurant in Shanghai exudes smoky mystery, assisted by an inventive lighting scheme from Prism Design.

The final shot of the Sergio Leone film ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ features a close-up of Robert De Niro, smiling, as he seemingly wakes from a dream in New York’s Chinatown, suggesting that the three hour celluloid tapestry that has preceded it has simply been a colourful dream.

The film and its director would go on to inspire Quentin Tarantino, whose own epic drama ‘Kill Bill’ was inspired, in part, by Leone. The almost cartoon-like quality of the Kill Bill series, lends that film a dream-like quality too, it is a little too colourful and overwhelming to be real.

The new Kemuri restaurant in Shanghai, is very real though, and thankfully, considerably less blood splattered than a scene from ‘Kill Bill’, however the popular chain’s interior was inspired by the look of the film.

Originally launched in Tokyo, a decade ago, Kemuri recently opened a branch in the Hongqiao area of Shanghai, using the notion of ‘Kemuri’, which means ‘smoke’, as a design concept. Interior designers from Prism Design aimed to conjure a mysterious atmosphere, a dining experience as alchemistic as smoke, yet casual in style.

Minimalist lighting has been used to prompt a relaxed atmosphere using lighting fixtures provided by NVC Lighting Technology Corporation. The chosen fixtures have colour temperatures of 2700K, ideal for relaxed dining.

The owner’s aims included the creation of a space which presented a specific Asian setting, one which would be recogniSed by people abroad, as well as by Tarantino fans.

The external window façade is lit in red, the national colour of both China and Japan, symbolising the bond between the two nations and emphasising the cultural interconnection of the two countries. Due to their versatile visual effect and economical nature, the whole project uses LED products. The restaurant’s opening times (11am -11pm) meant that the lighting design needed to suit the changing time of day, therefore the lighting has been designed to match the natural evolution of sunshine levels as the day progresses.

The designers observed the differing forms smoke tends to take, noting the different cloud-like shapes and the multiple changing lines that make the edges of an expanding plume and mark out its individuality.‘Kemuri’ has been transformed into a piece of art, a 3D construction.

Hemp ropes have been used in the design, creating a sense of separation between the bar and several secluded booths, the hemp bringing to mind traditional forms found in Chinese and Japanese architecture from the turn of the century and further back. These traditional Oriental architectural images, such as temples and housing, informed much of the illumination project.

LED tape lights have been used at both flooring and ceiling levels in the entrance in order to offer a sense of anticipation before entering the inner dining space.

The illumination of the dining room focuses on showing and highlighting the shape of the hemp ropes. 2700K LED spotlights are well utilised and are able to move freely on electronic rails.

The lighting configuration aims to highlight the natural unevenness of the walls, while in some parts of the space, it recreates the feel of sunshine filtering through foliage, a difficult ethereal effect to capture, something so unique, in fact, that the Japanese have their own word for it, ‘komorebi’, meaning ‘showers of light’.


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