Back to our Collection of Notes

Designing for Darren and Dewakan, The Restaurant

Apr 2, 2019

In 2015, we were tasked to design a booth for Dewakan. The setup is for the Theatre of Cuisines at Taste MIGF, an annual two-day food fair featuring food samples from local restaurants. The task was simple... design a space for very light cooking and a counter for preparation and service. Naturally, I said yes!

Darren and I share a healthy disdain for work that is trite – superficial. We also share a healthy propensity and joy for meaningful work – work that is rooted, brewed and considered... At least in principle :) These perspectives and a commitment to our calling, feeds our lengthy-discussions and fuels our drive towards building layers upon layers of depth, anchoring meaning in the work we do... AND peeling back layers upon layers of superficial artifice to get to an extract/essence that is explicitly pure and honest, and sublime... alluring all the same. So the simplest rendition of a particular something, imbued with plenty of meaning, is profoundly appealing. That is to say, we couldn't do any ordinary booth.

And so I began sketching.

It began looking like an altar. This is slightly amusing.

Elemental and mythical ideas struck a chord. Imagine a bonfire wrapped in a triangle-brutalist earth/concrete platform. That would have been mighty strong a statement. The other idea is to depict a kind of layered/stepped setting a la Hanging Gardens of Babylon/ziggurat.

The Dewakan triangle, framing a void to be filled with people.

And then the plans, just to see how they look like more practically.

Around this time, Darren and I agreed on the triangle motif being a major element to observe. The triangle means a lot to us. We spent a few months before Dewakan began, coming up with the identity revolving around the mythical triangle. That's a story for another day.

Now that some fundamental ideas are in place... more practical considerations are considered. One takes into account scale, material constraints, and the way we use the space. All that informs the cost of production. And I wanted to be sure. And often, we need to look at ideas in unusual perspectives in order to force ourselves to pay attention to detail. This can take on many forms, and disciplines. In this case, I took to building a model... out of Lego. Oh, Lego!

I've only ever shown Darren a small picture of this model on my phone. I enjoyed this process. You begin to notice things you would otherwise overlook.

We both imagined gardens. Darren wanted a herb garden to pluck fresh leaves from. I wanted a patch of green in front, with fireflies prancing around. Service would be from this table. Light to guide the way.

We eventually flipped down the triangular table top light. So instead of emanating light upward, it now lights outward - horizontally... from the front (not depicted in this picture). It will have a sort of come-hither, lighthouse-beam-of-light quality.

At this last stage, before production... sometimes schematics just aren't that sexy, but necessary. And I actually quite like doing this.

Sexy. A word Darren would use many times over the years. I muse along, because we know what it means. Sexy: a state of gorgeousness when things come together... when things are just right. I think :) It's not just pretty. It's all things coming along to evoke a certain je ne sais quoi. The creative process many a times, involves the art of coming up with words to describe what you mean - starting with what you imagine it to mean.

Then comes the build. We see parts of the structure being built. We come back the next day to see this and we are stoked.

Good people at Eats, Shoots & Roots adding the finishing touches to the herb terrace.

Darren. Checking.

Lights up

The upper tier

The flow

There aren't that many projects that I keep looking back at. This is a rarity.

And the man that made it all possible. Darren Teoh. Dewakan.

Darren is also a rarity. I believe he holds an unwavering vision of a world, where we are all able to share in all things good. A world where  everyone may care about the things that truly matter and be able to really enjoy the simple things in life unfettered, and untethered. To put into flavours - these simple joys; memories, sights, sounds... He makes mementos of great taste. It takes a strong man to make things so delicate. I relish working with this man. He's one sexy man. Congrats on winning Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, 2019! You made it.

p.s. Darren... bring on 2019 projects! Can't wait.