Kokaistudios has undertaken a transformative redesign of Mr & Mrs Bund; Internationally acclaimed chef Paul Pairet’s flagship restaurant in Shanghai. Kokaistudios was asked by Pairet to revisit his innovative culinary destination and re-launch this iconic, long-standing institution located on the 6th floor of the Bund 18 building, a UNESCO awarded project which was Kokaistudios first project in China eleven years ago.
The original Mr & Mrs Bund was an adaptation of the previous occupier’s design, and has long needed a transformation to the identity and food concept conceived by Chef Pairet. In Chef Pairet’s vision, Mr & Mrs Bund is a casual dining space that is free from the confines and norms of traditional fine dining.
The space should create sensation, not only through gastronomic wonders but also visually keeps diners’ eyes moving and discovering as they are subtly stimulated by the environment. The brief called for a complete revamp of the interiors, capitalizing on Kokaistudios’ European design ethos and ability to craft an environment in an iconic Shanghai context that strengthens the brand of Mr & Mrs Bund.
Aware of the impact of light on human psychology, Kokaistudios has designed the lighting system of Mr & Mrs Bund to create two distinct moods. A soft and elegant space filled with gentle sunlight during the day; the restaurant becomes much more dynamic, romantic and posh at night. The duality of character invokes different emotions among diners, and it makes Mr & Mrs Bund one of the rare places where diners would like to visit day and night.The restaurant is roughly divided into four areas with different characteristics and settings. A long communal table acts as the natural focal point which, together with the long bar at the background, makes up the central dining area. Linking to the bar is a newly conceived lounge area with four high tables for diners to enjoy apéritifs or to host casual parties.
On the other side of the central dining area is a series of three semi-private dining rooms, each seating up to 12 people. At the front, with a direct view over the Bund, an intimate yet flexible layout is maintained with a mixed system of large round sofas for 8 people and single love seats on 2-people tables. This prime space is capable to be transformed for private parties and special events. The terrace has always been a popular spot at Mr & Mrs Bund, and Kokaistudios has made its entrance more prominent by elevating it and placing the DJ booth there. A circulation route towards the terrace that causes minimum disturbances to other guests is also mapped out.
The overall style of the new Mr & Mrs Bund is a modern interpretation of a French brasserie, but with a sense of humor to match the casual dining culture at the restaurant. The entrance, a red and green traditional home door, has been retained to surprise customers who will walk in to discover a completely new space. Welcoming them is a Kokaistudios-designed sculptural reception counter, inspired by corsets and the steel frame of dresses in the 19th century. Mr&Mrs Bund’s loyal customers will also immediately note the new lighting with a custom system installed to provide three ambiences – a bright daylight for lunch, a more dramatic dinner light and a dynamic setting for late night and parties. Kokaistudios also designed the signature chandeliers in Murano glass and the iconic glittering globe with magnifying lenses installed over the central dining table as a focal point of the space.
Throughout the restaurant, Kokaistudios utilizes classique French motifs and a palette of materials typical of French traditions, in an intelligent and irreverent way that creates an adaptable environment suitable for an elegant dining experience or bigger, crowd-drawing parties that are organizedevery month. The original building elements such as windows and pillar decorations have been preserved and treated with a grey unfinished plaster, and embellished with a trompe-l’oeil of traditional wood work that characterized the building’s classic interiors in the past century. The ceiling has been treated with a patchwork of custom designed hexagonal tiles to create a stratified unfinished effect, whilst the Parisienne parquet timber floor is laid with an unexpected composition of colors and a rustic finish.
All the newly added partitions have been graphically treated with classic French boiserie photography applied. They are infused with the traditional technique of trompe-l’oeil in an extreme way, enriching the space with a strong identity and opening up the walls to with an interactive game of illusion. Decorations are alsoplaced on walls to create a stronger multi-dimensional visual experience. On the metal kitchen wall area we placeda number ofobservation windows” inspired by Fotoplastikon, the fist artisanal 3D projector invented in Europe more than a hundred years ago. Two of them are spy windows into the workings of the kitchen, whilst others project culinary related videos, handpicked by the chef. Whilst maintaining the robust, mechanical feel of the former kitchen, theentire back of house services have undergonean immensely complex re-designto meet the requirements of Mr & Mrs Bund and Paul Pairet’s dining concept.
Kokaistudios believes this is the biggest challenge of the project – transforming a kitchen that was built for 80 diners a night, to one that caters for Chef Pairet’s greatly enhanced menu serving 3 settings of diners in a 160-seat restaurant, without expanding it. The redesign takes on the Chef’s concept of a ‘food machine’, and required close collaboration between him and the Studio. The result is a dream engine put into a familiar space, fittingly finished with a bespoke steel work and completed by the troupe of staff that operates it.
The theme of early industrialization continues in the front of house, where fixed furniture such as the bar, service stations and communal tables are composed using traditional handmade cast iron techniques, typical of the 19th century’s “modern engineer design style”. Seating is a particular highlight of Mr & Mrs Bund. Kokaistudios re-visited all the seating, studying the specific way diners interact under various settings. Again, the furniture reuses classic typologies of the French tradition with innovation. For instance, typical wood chairs have rough and unfinished frames, with fabrics in different hues of denimandseat backs decorated with corsetry and vest details. The banquette seats in the front area are fabricatedfrom handmade iron bars, corresponding with the theme of early industrialization. Bar and lounge stools are treated with graffiti and abstract paint motifs, whilst dining sofas are finished with textile commonly usedfor potato juta bags.
Most seating is in a neutral color, except for the traditional egg chairs behind the reception and the long communal table chairs, which highlight the central dining area with a dash of red and green. The new Mr & Mrs Bund has an updated persona that may surprise many, but it is one that fully expresses Chef Pairet’s democratic and modern dining concept. The clearer demarcations of areas, together with more flexible seat configurations, have unleashed countless possibilities for the management and diners to use the venue. With spy windows, trompe-l’oeil walls and table football all installed on the route to the restrooms, diners can be guaranteed that they will constantly be entertained. The kitchen, where all the magic begins, has become much more efficient and productive. In all, Kokaistudios and Chef Pairet worked very closely throughout the project, from designing the restaurant identity to every operational detail. Their hard work has taken Mr & Mrs Bund, already a staple of the world’s best restaurants, to a new level of stardom.
Location: Bund 18, 6/F, 18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, Shanghai, China
Area: 1300 sqm
Interior Designer: Kokaistudios
Chief Architects: Andrea Destefanis and Filippo Gabbiani
Design Manager: Kasia Gorecka
Design Team: Lianzhong Fu, Rake Wang, Alan Lau, Suju Kim, Ada Sun, Kinnan Gu
Lighting Design: Kokaistudios in coperation with LS lighting
Photographs: Charlie Xia