Akira Back at JW Marriott Hanoi

greymatters accepted the job to create internationally famous chef Akira Back’s first restaurant in Vietnam, an environment that matches the wonder of its surroundings at JW Marriott Hotel Hanoi.

  • Year 2018
  • Location Hanoi, Vietnam,
  • Type Restaurant,
  • greymatters pulled out all the stops for a world-famous chef’s first foray into Vietnam. It’s housed in one of Asia’s most visually inspiring hotels, the JW Marriott Hanoi.

    The main building is designed by Carlos Zapata who designed the building to be a Vietnamese dragon, which is a very auspicious animal in Vietnamese culture.

    There was a dragon in place already, and Akira was born in 1974, which is the Year Of The Tiger. In Korean, ‘Back’ translates to the colour white, so he’s a white tiger – we came up with this concept called ‘Tiger Meets Dragon’, which we based our designs around for the restaurant, to reference the building and call attention to how the new restaurant would sit within it. Back gave the design team an open-ended brief, the only stipulation being he wanted it to be “the wildest” restaurant in his portfolio.

    greymatters really took that and ran with it. They played with the idea of it being a kind of funhouse, with mirrors and reflections. It’s very dark and moody. There were several elements that Back wanted featured in the design, including the use of a “vortex”, a concept that appears in all of his restaurants. “That usually plays out with the use of concentric circles, but we took it to the next level and included an actual vortex in the corridor,” Barr explains. The team used mirrors to give the corridor a disorientating effect, playing off a “shattered mirror” idea.

    Mirrors are used throughout the restaurant, on ceilings, walls and in lighting features, and have been incorporated into another element Back wanted included – artwork from his artist mother, Young Hee Back, whose designs, as well as one of her recipes, feature in all his restaurants.

    What could have been confusing and disorientating is brought together by the clever use of lighting throughout the venue.

    Everything, from the artwork, the use of colour in the carpet and furnishings, and the use of multifarious mirrored spaces, says ‘bold’ and ‘adventurous.’ But it all works seamlessly, lending a sense of drama to the venue which befits the exciting Korean/Japanese cuisine on show.

    The team delivered Back’s unusual brief. “It ticked the box in his portfolio of being the craziest, wildest, loudest restaurant Chef Akira has,” says Barr. “Which is what he wanted. He really loved what we did, and how the whole story wraps together with the building and the hotel’s Smack Dab bar, which we also opened at the same time.”

    Design: greymatters
    Photography: Adisorn Ruangsiridecha