CLOUD BISTRO | Kokaistudios
Photo credits: : Dirk Weiblen
Project name: Cloud Bistro
Location: Shanghai, China
Floor area: 390 Square meters
Date of completion: Apr. 2020
Client: Fosun Foundation
Interior Design: Kokaistudios
Chief Designers: Andrea Destefanis, Filippo Gabbiani
Design Director: Rake Wang
Project Managers: Ada Sun, Chang Qing
Design Team: Vivian Fang, Winnie Chen, Rao Lingshan
Photography: Dirk Weiblen
Text: Frances Arnold
Drawing on the team’s global experience in designing legendary rooftop venues, in 2019 Kokaistudios was commissioned to build a bistro and bar on top of one of Shanghai’s most prestigious riverside landmarks. A standalone destination in its own right thanks to its spectacular city views, Cloud Bistro also supports the broader programming of host venue, such as brand conferences and fancy parties. In keeping with the architectural language of the existing building, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, the venue is an organic extension of what has fast become a Shanghai icon, and built with transparency and flexibility in mind.
Mindful of these factors, Kokaistudios’ approach is light in every sense, with transparency, openness, and adaptability underpinning all elements of the project. Housed inside a glass structure installed on top of the existing architecture’s fourth-floor rooftop, folding windows allow for constant adjustment according to temperature and occasion. Taking full advantage of the location’s most attractive feature - panoramic views of Shanghai old and new - a flexible arrangement of high and low seating guarantees every guest a view, while a long modular communal table draws the eye to the river vistas beyond.
A combination of materials including bronze metal, muted gray textiles, and white marble counter reflect Cloud Bistro’s day-to-night functionality. The palette lends the space an additional layer of flexibility, making it a versatile venue for everything from weekend brunches and afternoon teas, to evening parties and cocktail receptions.
Adaptability was also a key priority for the venue’s art exhibition space, positioned at the far end of the space. With this in mind, the shelving are flexible and a chain of light boxes can be easily customized to match exhibitions’ visual identity. For branded shows, such as a 2019 display by jewellery label Tiffany & Co., additional light boxes above the bar present further opportunities for tailored customer experiences.
With Cloud Bistro, Kokaistudios sought to blur boundaries between outside and inside, architecture and river, art space and eatery, and create a seemingly organic extension of Fosun Foundation. This was achieved by deliberately connecting Cloud Bistro’s interior to the building’s existing design language. For example, the curvature of its primary access point - a stone staircase - is extended to form banquette seating, which in turn wraps around a central island bar. Above, a cloud-like installation of copper and brass, inlaid with LED lights, recalls the building’s dramatic architectural facade.
A particular challenge was to build the venue over and around a pre-existing art work by Japanese artist, Tatsuo Miyajima. Titled ‘Counter Sky Garden,’ it comprises a digital countdown of numbers, made up of some 300 LED lights laid into what was formerly the building’s fourth floor rooftop. Now partially encased inside Cloud Bistro’s footprint, Kokaistudios ensured its blinking digits remain largely visible. A striking focal point of the venue, both inside and on its attractive outdoor terrace, the light-based work complements the bistro’s transition from day through to night, creating a relationship between the installation’s constantly alternating countdown, and the flowing river beyond.
Cloud Bistro builds on Kokaistudios’ extensive international experience in creating dramatic rooftop F&B venues. These include Shanghai’s Bar Rouge, the crowning nightclub on the top floor of UNESCO Heritage Award-winning Bund 18; and for Four Seasons Kuwait, twin restaurants overlooking the Persian Gulf, Sintoho and Dai Forni. For Fosun Foundation, designers drew on this global experience to create an attractive eatery that is at once a destination in its own right, yet can also be readily incorporated into the venue’s broader arts programming either through branding and visuals, or flexible event space. Taking its location and prestige as starting points, and with transparency and organic logic at its core, Cloud Bistro marks a successful extension to one of Shanghai’s newest architectural icons.