Morimoto Asia Building
Designed to resemble a cavernous industrial warehouse, the original space encompassed 23,000 gross square feet, always shrouded in darkness and sealed off from the outside world. In this oversized black box, resort vacationers were invited to revel in moody nightclub ambiance, as lights and strobes pulsed around a giant revolving dance floor, flanked by three levels of grated metal platforms and stairways.
Today, this same building has been opened out, revealing a 522-seat Pan-Asian restaurant that combines grandeur of scale with harmonious design and a modern mystique. The difference in design is immediately apparent at the entrance, a three-story glass corner that shares the interior with the outside world, and generously lets the outside in.
Headlined by a world-renowned celebrity chef, the restaurant aims to inspire and excite through sensory experience and a blend of authenticity and innovation. The star attraction is a spectacular show kitchen, visible to nearly all diners. Brightly lit and taking up more floor space than the dining areas, this gorgeous showpiece places the skill of the staff and the preparation of food in full view, the main attraction of an immersive ‘show’ experience.
Considerable demolition and reinvention of the building was necessary to give form and function to this ambitious two-story restaurant. In its resort setting, the restaurant shares a thematic tie to the surrounding businesses, all designed to create the semblance of a historic Central Florida community in the midst of ‘urban renewal.’ In this invented history, the building was once a bottling plant. Within the space, glass bottles are suspended on overhead conveyor rails, culminating in a spiraling chandelier of illuminated glass hovering near the guest check-in.
The beauty and delicacy of glass enhances much of the interior. Custom glass beaded chandeliers hang over the dining area, deliberately evoking the fishing nets of the chef’s origins in Japan. These elegant fixtures are reflected in antique mirrors, interspersed with glass mosaic art that evokes ancient Japanese prints. The star chef’s national origin is also reflected in the Japanese calligraphy created by a specialist from his shared hometown of Hiroshima.
A focal point of the mezzanine, and a particular point of pride for the chef, is the exposed sushi bar sculpted from hundreds of pieces of hand-selected ash wood, backed with a wall of hammered copper. Tying the upper floor to the grand dining room is a winding 270-foot ribbon, a ‘sculptural bar’ that twists its way through a 36-foot high space. This most modern of visual elements combines startling form with bar service function.
The entire transformation was accomplished with tons of recycled steel and concrete, miles of electrical wiring, and a unifying creative vision that brings light, air and inspiration to what was once closed-off and pitch dark. The result is a delicious combination of intrigue, artistry and culinary delight.
"Challenging space to work with, there are some intervention pieces that deal with the scale well"
"The choice of materiality was strong"
"The simplicity of the graphics is powerful"
"The project has an air of authenticity"
Award of Merit