Guangzhou is one of China's oldest cities, formerly called Canton by the West, an endpoint on the ancient Silk Road. It's also the mainland's third-largest city, with 14 million inhabitants, and, as a port city on the Pearl River (off of the South China Sea), it has become a major, increasingly sophisticated, tourist city.
Thus, the right combination of elegance and homey comfort is what designers sought for the new Race Steak House on the seventh floor of Guangzhou Grandview Mall, the biggest shopping center in one of the city's large commercial and residential districts. In fact, the design team nicknamed the project “small town party” to convey the idea of an intimate and familiar enclosure within a sleek international restaurant.
“There is a foreign small town hidden in [a] lively and prosperous metropolis far from a tumultuous city,” says Chief Designer Li Xing-Lin of the Foshan, China-based studio C.DD Design, of the approach. “It was done by partitioning the space with the concept of a small house with various-sized 'courtyards' and a terrace extending and penetrating through them.”
The use of terraces and plants brings the outside indoors, creating a tranquil setting away from the urban noise. Lighting is designed to provide the feeling of sitting in the sunshine, even at night.
Throughout the space are partitions and small enclosures that add to the sense of intimacy and small-town ambience. At the end of the corridors are gardens and a vertical plant wall that, the designer says, “[reminds] people [of plainness], comfort and tranquility. It’s not purely a dining space, but an interactive space for entertainment and sharing happiness.”
Guangzhou is “a city with a food culture,” Li says, “where most cuisines are warmly welcomed.” As for something as Westernized as a steakhouse, he says, “I think the concept of upscale restaurants has changed,” he says. “The ’90s-style steak restaurants are rare in China; they represent relatively upper-class consumption. However, the perception of steak has begun to change, it's spreading to more classes, some even combined with the idea of trendy fast catering.”
That influence meshes perfectly with traditional Chinese concepts of nature and tranquility. “I went to a European town once, and felt so good and comfortable there at night,” says Li, “that I hoped to bring that feeling into this space.”
Race Steak House, Guangzhou, China
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Photography: Ouyang Yun