Bring back the Dragon
The design of newly-opened Hakkasan at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi combines the ancient Chinese art of Feng Shui with modern social dynamics
Hakkasan at Emirates Palace is the third restaurant to open in the brand’s 10-year history, and like the original London outlet, the Abu Dhabi restaurant is designed by Gilles & Boissner.
It features the distinctive Hakkasan “cage-like” design and “electroshock of colour”, says founder and CEO of Gilles & Boissner Patrick Gilles.
The brief, he explains, was to “bring the London urban spirit to Abu Dhabi, while bestowing a modern authentic Chinese experience”.
And, as with the original design, the ethos was based on the slogan ‘Bring Back the Dragon’. This term was coined in response to the way in which Chinese restaurant deign had shifted from its colourful roots to stark modernism. As a reaction to this, the décor of Hakkasan sought to regain a distinctive ‘Chineseness’ with its sensuous interior.
Gilles & Boissner emphasise “emotional architecture”, which focuses on the emotion a space provokes, rather than the logistics of its aesthetics, function or form. As a result, Hakkasan employs the traditions of Feng Shui with observations of how people interact in different designed environments.
An integral part of this concept is the wall of blue glass in front of the kitchen, says Gilles, which makes the cooking action part of the restaurant’s theatre “without being too in your face”.
Hakkasan Limited chief operating officer Didier Souillat agrees: “The fact that you can see the kitchen through blue glass is paramount in our concept, as well as in the bar area.
“As is having a separate identity between the lounge and the main dining restaurant, so you have different segments, so it still feels like one, but not like it’s 12,000ft²,” continues Souillat. “The flow is very important, not only from the service point of view, but also the customer’s — so they don’t feel like there’s all this service going on around them.”
Light too plays a key role in the dining experience, and for the past nine years the company has worked with a company called Esometrics to use “lighting to create a dynamic feel in space,” says Gilles.
“It means that some parts are voluntarily dark to highlight others,” he says, adding that the Emirates Palace restaurant posed a challenge because of the “UAE’s extraordinary sunlight”.
“How should we let the sun come in without creating too much contrast with the dark wood?,” says Gilles. “We decided to highlight the wood color and chose some lighter leather colors. Then the existing windows were covered with very dense Chinese woodwork to create a filter,” he says.
Hakkasan has a two entrances, which posed a challenge when creating a main reception.
“It was difficult to create a foyer area, so we disrupted the idea of dramatising the arrival area and acted as if there was no entrance,” explains Gilles.
“There is no warning, you are suddenly in a modernized Oriental haven.”