Ben Berwick of Prevalent explains how Susuru is designed like a Tokyo metro station
Newcastle, Australia – ‘If you give people a nicely finished space, they’re more likely to take care of it,’ says Ben Berwick, director of Newcastle-based architecture studio Prevalent. ‘That said, in the end, the white surfaces will age, though in the way a Tokyo metro station does: clean and well-kept, yet with signs that someone has been here before you.’
Berwick is referring to the design of Susuru Ramen and Gyoza Bar, a restaurant that allowed Prevalent to experiment with a fresh, unexpected approach. Situated in a red-brick building from 1906, Susuru manifests its presence on the street with an all-white façade, while large openings offer passersby a peak into its unusual interior.
Tasked with designing a restaurant that would introduce a new, foreign cuisine to the local scene, Prevalent architects took the opportunity to experiment with an equally fresh, unexpected approach in the restaurant’s design. Pairing the white epoxy floor and white-powder-coated furniture with a yellow layer of oversized blocks on the restaurant’s walls, the architects recreated an oversized version of the white-and-yellow-tiled platforms and corridors found in Tokyo metro stations.
‘The white table tops are intended to show cleanliness when a customer arrives and feature the spills and splashes when the customer is finished,’ says Berwick. Deliberately celebrating the signs of a customer’s enjoyment, embracing the ramen-soup splashes also refers to the restaurant name – which means ‘slurp’ in Japanese. ‘The centre table is designed with recessed dividers,’ Berwick continues, ‘providing a subtle separation between groups of diners. This integrates the solo dining concept of ramen restaurants in Japan with Western dining customs.’
Disrupting the minimalist atmosphere, colourful graphic elements designed to reflect a metro station’s advertisements have been used in the menu boards and various light panels. The posters and signage are meant to be changed periodically, while details such as the soya sauce bottles are kept white in what Berwick admits is both an orchestrated aesthetic decision as well as a practical cost-saving measure.
‘Over time, the white will show some wear and the floor will develop tracks or lines of desire like a metro station, which I think will be interesting to see,’ Berwick says.