Time Out São Paulo

Naoki Otake: interview

Naoki Otake, the architect behind Kinoshita, Clos de Tapas and the soon-to-open Attimo talks inspiration, restoration and harmonious design

What were the inspirations behind Kinoshita’s design?
‘I spent three years living in a temple in Japan, and then 18 months studying classical Japanese architecture. When I came back to Brazil I was asked to design Kinoshita, and so it was a chance to apply the concepts of Japanese architecture and became a sort of experimental laboratory for my ideas. In the design, I took into consideration the aesthetics and formality of the traditional Japanese Sukiya-style houses, which evolved from the architecture of Zen Buddhist tea ceremony structures. Such structures were very simple as they reflected the wabi-sabi aesthetic, which values simplicity, modesty and the imperfections of materials as they are found in nature.

What are the most interesting aspects of the interior?
The interior of the restaurant has all the elements of a traditional Japanese home: the entrance garden (niwa), the vestibule (genkan), the porch (engawa), the garden of contemplation and elements such as the tatami room (washitsu). Japanese homes are traditionally almost free of fixed walls, and similarly in Kinoshita there are no solid separations between the rooms. All divisions are made with glass, open wood lattices or wood panels vested with rice paper (shoji). Even functional furniture such as shelves serve as divisions made of glass.

Another interesting aspect is the use of natural light, which casts different tones and shades throughout the day and as the seasons change. The materials are all natural, too, such as stone, wood and straw.

What type of mood do you hope to create?
The Japanese residence, apart from being providing shelter, should also blend harmoniously with the surrounding landscape and provoke a reaction in its residents. At Kinoshita, I wanted to prepare the spirit of the customer to receive Chef [Tsuyoshi] Murakami’s food. The customer first goes through a small garden and crosses a bridge connecting the external and internal worlds. The garden can then be seen from any place within the restaurant. I also avoided strong colours, keeping the palette natural, for a more harmonious aesthetic.

How important is the furniture?
The furniture should complement the atmosphere of the place, creating a more formal, relaxed or comfortable climate, whichever is desired. At Kinoshita, we designed all the furniture, from tables and chairs right down to the detail of the kitchen, precisely because we wanted all elements of the restaurant to have a Japanese aspect, be it in the design of the furniture or in the use of wood and other natural materials. 

Tell us about your new project, Attimo
It’s an Italian restaurant in a restored 1950s house – a rich architectural period in São Paulo's history, with some great Modernist architects. This house was built by one of them – David Libeskind. 

What aspects have you restored? 
We had to make some changes to the house to open up the space, and make it structurally sound, but the aim was to enrich rather than preserve the original architecture. We changed the windows back to their original size and position and restored an internal staircase, which is a work of art; each step is a small slab fixed to the wall. There was also an old fireplace that had been closed over, which we opened up again.  

What new elements did you add?
A skylight in the roof, to let in more natural light. By the side of the house, where the garden used to be, we created the entrance along with a bar which we gave a contemporary finish, using stainless steel.

By Catherine Balston and Urmee Khan
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