RamenYa is a chain of Japanese ramen noodle shops in Melbourne and the chain unveiled its flagship restaurant in Emporium Melbourne. A unique aspect of this project was the inclusion of a second restaurant, 1000wat, in a shared context where both brands operate under one roof. This space doubles as an incubator for 1000wat, announcing its maiden foray onto the local food scene.
The brief called for a design which was robust to cater to both restaurants by relaying a clear separation of the restaurants’ brand, and unify these elements under a single architectural gesture. It was important that the 2 restaurants retained features that defined their individual identities without condensing them into a ‘mini food-court’.
The main design gesture postulates the adoption of dual sets of parallel perforated steel screens set perpendicular to each other, reflecting the 2 brands. Where the screens converge on the diagonal, an ‘archway’ thoroughfare is revealed, leading to the order-counters. Apertures of varying sizes are strategically carved out of the screens based on seating arrangements and desired viewports. Framed views near eye-level reduce the collection of screens to a more human scale.
The screens offer a visual distinction between the 2 brands, creating a layered aesthetic akin to Japanese rice-paper screens with varying degrees of transparency, giving visual depth and a sense of discovery to draw customers in.
An honest material palette is employed to inject the spirit of Melbourne’s laneways into an otherwise ultra-polished shopping centre. The combination of unpolished steel, natural timbers and white-washed bricks stay true to the restaurants’ “no-frills” street food heritage.
In a time where brick-and-mortar shops are experiencing lower than average tenancy rates and hospitality turnover rates are on the rise, this project demonstrates that a dual-occupancy collaboration can function successfully without competing demands. It is an experimental venture for both restaurants; 1000wat entry onto the Melbourne scene with a more established restaurant gives security for the budding business, and customers benefit from the diverse food selection on offer.
This project is an opportunity for the design outcome to foster a harmonious shared space for both brands to work cooperatively yet grow individually. The semi-transparent perforated screens move away from traditional dual shop-frontages (typical in most shopping centres) and integrate both restaurants under a singular, coherent architectural language. The result is one that is bold, experimental and larger than its kit of parts.