PIG Design's KYUUSANN is a cyberpunk-themed space melding physical and digital – STIRworld

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Sep 22, 2022
The buzzing, contemporary atmosphere of Chengdu’s IFS (International Finance Square) is the backdrop for the latest outlet of KYUUSANN, a subsidiary of WASABIYA – a chain of Japanese dining experiences in China. Located near the neon-lit streetscape of Chunxi Road, one of the city’s most prominent commercial districts, this new dining destination specialises in Japanese barbecue and wine, served within a cyberpunk-influenced space designed by Hangzhou-based practice PIG Design. Blending the mediums of physical and digital design in a fashion that is forward-thinking yet accessible, cold yet familiar, and opulent with just the right tinge of gaudiness, the firm, led by Founder and Director Li Wenqiang, has delivered an environment that departs wildly from traditional models of Japanese restaurants, to reflect its new direction as well as Chengdu’s status as a hub for gastronomical innovation, information technology, communications, and finance.  
As a genre and aesthetic, cyberpunk has exerted considerable influence on contemporary design at various scales since its rise to prominence in the 1980s. From sleek, streamlined furniture and product designs, to buildings and interior designs that put a corporate, futuristic spin on the industrial style, placing technological advancement at the forefront of their schemes, the style is well-tailored towards creating environments that are detached and filled with a certain air of escapism. The genre is itself known for its heavy use of juxtaposition – between the organic and inorganic, utopian and dystopian, as well as development and degradation.
Funnelling hallmark features of this niche into the hospitality interior space of KYUUSANN Chengdu, PIG Design has attempted to produce an experience befitting the site’s cultural context within a metro station, amid the bright lights and effervescent atmosphere of Chunxi Road. When it comes to evoking cyberpunk aesthetics, few areas from all corners of the world could be better suited as a relevant context. Occupying a retail space behind an escalator that connects its host building to the neighbouring metro station, KYUUSANN makes its most striking impression almost immediately through its sculptural storefront façade design.
Described by the designers as a pair of “sunglasses”, the immersive installation at the restaurant’s front comprises an undulating form in stainless steel, paired with LED screens that bring bursts of colour and texture to the arrangement. Measuring 25 metres, the installation does visually dominate its surroundings to a fair degree while also providing a snapshot into the space’s interior, a glimpse of the ‘phygital’ realm that lies beyond. This sculptural element, with its fluid transitions between concavity and convexity, is more than just decoration, and is also affixed to one of the building’s internal supports.
Unfolding in all its metallic and LED-fuelled glory, the space beyond this glass veil has been organised in an almost symmetrical layout, centred on an eggshell-shaped seating booth encountered just beyond the entrance. On either side, near-identical seating arrangements have been laid out with minimal partitioning between them, accommodating a dining area, afternoon tea area, and a wine bar. However, one of the two arms extending from this nexus point stretches further back towards more secluded dining booths. Directly in front of the first eggshell booth is a semicircular bar counter with a ridged finish that has been subtly illuminated through concealed lighting design elements to create an impression of movement. Surrounded by high-top seating with a vortex-like overhead display, this zone is essentially the focal point of the plan, drawing all towards it. 
Within this spatial configuration, PIG Design has deployed a theme centred on metal, granite, and light. Depicting fire and by extension, the harnessing on energy sources as the initial fuel for human evolution, a differentiating factor in the emergence of the species as the planet’s dominant terrestrial life form, the design makes use of an array of LED panels on the walls, ceilings, and internal partitions to make light the protagonist of the space. The most prominent among them are a pair of sinuous walls of LED screens behind each of the peripheral seating areas. Extending at an angle from above the backrest of the seating attached to each wall, the installations expand to cover most of the ceiling area above these zones.
Composed of smaller square LED screens arranged to produce a curved surface with metal framing, the installation utilises an artificial intelligence-powered program to divide images of objects into fragments and reorganise them with the aid of pixel-like particles. The result is a display that renders something akin to “digital smoke,” a “flowing volume with its own logic.” Light, form, and movement all blend to generate an additional surface replete with a substance reminiscent of cosmic dust, distinct and unbound by standard materiality, portraying a fusion of artificial and human intelligence, that the designers view as the culmination of traditions which commenced with prehistoric murals once painted on cave walls by early humans.
Matte metal structures, coupled with glossy reflective tabletops, and stone partition walls serve to supplement the digital dimension of the design with elements that rely on tactility as part of their function. As a fair portion of the furnishings are experiments in bespoke design implemented by PIG Design, their forms heavily lean into the theme of juxtaposition. For starters, the eggshell forms of the central booth as well as those of a number of chairs throughout the space explicitly reference the merging of the organic and inorganic that is prevalent throughout most cyberpunk fiction. Calling upon imagery of ectogenetic technology, these seats have been geared to wrap diners in a cocoon of comfort, allowing them to revel in the spectacle of the space itself. However, PIG Design also sought to inculcate a more human touch to the space, making use of hand-stitched blue fabrics to upholster most of the seating at KYUUSANN.
Partition walls with fragmented edges act as another source of counterpoint, clashing with the more well defined geometries of the remaining space. The most striking manifestation of the theme of juxtaposition comes in the form of the triangular prism enclosure on one side of the layout, adjacent to the restrooms. Taking cues from spreading wings, this element is among the weightiest spatial partitions throughout the design, and is bordered by a pair of metallic bird sculptures – an exceedingly strong case of organic and inorganic interaction through a shared geometric design language.
Breaking from conventions is associated with a certain level of risk, particularly when looking at the age-old aesthetics of Japanese dining experiences. What is most impressive about KYUUSANN is the manner in which the Chinese design practice’s intervention has been able to break from tradition through an aesthetic that is so divergent from its source yet so inextricably tied to the depictions of Japan as it is today and as it could be in the future. In effect, this raises a poignant question on how restaurant design, particularly in the case of culturally-themed venues, could look to futuristic depictions of their concerned nations when considering means to ground themselves firmly within a relevant point in space and time. The future may be upon us sooner than we think, and perhaps drawing from visions of it as imagined now, could help to improve on them and chart out better realities further down the road.
Location: Chengdu IFS, China
Area: 360 sqm
Year of Completion: 2022
Design Firm: PIG DESIGN
Chief Designer: Li Wenqiang
Design Team: Liu Chao, He Di
Construction: Hangzhou Zhima Decoration Design Engineering Co., Ltd.
Lighting Design: Yaank
Furniture Design: PIG DESIGN
Visual Design: Qian Chaofan
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Jerry Elengical
Jerry’s work as a writer is fuelled by an innate desire to ascertain the driving forces behind exemplary architecture and design. An architect by education, he directs this interest towards crafting riveting narratives that attempt to capture the essence of creative endeavours from all over the world.
Jerry’s work as a writer is fuelled by an innate desire to ascertain the driving forces behind exemplary architecture and design. An architect by education, he directs this interest towards crafting riveting narratives that attempt to capture the essence of creative endeavours from all over the world.
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