Architecture firm Snøhetta has completed Burnside, a casual café and eatery by day and a bar and lounge by night in Tokyo. The project builds upon Ghetto Gastro’s idea of using food to empower communities. Since their founding in 2012, Ghetto Gastro’s work to explore global food traditions has led to immersive culinary experiences produced with the approach of art installations. Inspired by this intersection of cultures Snøhetta, en one tokyo, and local architect kooo architects have teamed up with artisanal, handmade sound system designer Devon Turnbull (Ojas), and flower artist Makoto Azuma to create an unparalleled dining and social experience that combines the elements of a bodega with a bar.
New York-style Bodegas, or conbini as they’re called in Japan, are a shared cultural experience of both Tokyo and the Bronx – the ease of takeaway and their ubiquity as neighborhood mainstays have cemented their place in the urban fabric of the two cities. Burnside Tokyo draws upon the conbini lexicon on the second floor above a Family Mart. Walking up to the second floor, the space unfolds into a focused view of the dining room and open kitchen. A wall of fabric-lined windows filters daylight into the space, creating the feeling of an active and humming café by day, and at night the windows bring in light from the street below to create an atmospheric lounge.
The transition between day and night, café and lounge, is a driving theme for the interior design. Two intersecting arches create a well-defined café/dining area and kitchen while also allowing views across both spaces, blurring the line between front-of-house and back-of-house. A dark material palette features amber-colored accents that reflect the changing light throughout the day while highlighting more ornate design elements such as the floral sculptures designed by Makoto Azuma. With a 30-person max capacity, the dining room is suited to maximize the floor space with custom-designed family-style tables that join together and fold away to allow a variety of layouts, including creating a dance floor for late-night events.
The dining room culminates in a proscenium arch at the pass table, where back-of-house and front-of-house intersect. This central pass table becomes the hearth of the kitchen at the project’s center. Beyond the dining room threshold is an open kitchen that revolves around the activity of the chefs and the culinary experience of heat and fire. The kitchen layout, designed with input from Ghetto Gastro, is intended to easily adapt for future chefs in the rotating roster. The overall flexibility of the design and layout ensures that the space accommodates a wide variety of pop-up uses and events.
As Snøhetta’s first project opening in Tokyo, Burnside is a unique collaboration that has culminated in a flexible, creative destination for Harajuku’s artistic milieu. Whether hosting an up-and-coming chef, serving as a casual coffeehouse, or throwing a release party, guests will feel transported by this sleek intersection of Tokyo and the Bronx.