Steve Leung’s restaurant in Dubai evokes traditional Chinese architecture and design

Designed by Hong Kong-based architect and design firm Steve Leung Designers, Yuan is the first fine dining Chinese restaurant at Atlantis The Palm Hotel & Resort and its interior scheme displays the ethereal beauty of old China.

According to Steve Leung, chairman, Steve Leung Designers, the client wanted a contemporary and elegant Chinese design. Leung says: “Our idea was to create an old China in a contemporary way for customers to enjoy an authentic Chinese dining experience in the Middle East. We proposed to infuse the signature Chinese architecture ‘Siheyuan’ into the design.

“Siheyuan literally means a courtyard surrounded by buildings on all four sides, and it is fundamental in Chinese [architecture] in the old days.”

The design team worked to have the spatial planning of Yuan’s layout based on the placement of Siheyuan in the centre and then to further compliment the space by using traditional elements of Chinese architecture. These elements included large wooden doors, patterned screens and a private dining room inspired by a pond.

As Leung put it, the client loved the culturally-inspired style board and commissioned a large, rectangular skylight for the main dining room so as to secure the idea of an open-air courtyard inside, which today functions as a stand out feature piece of the interior.

Upon entering Yuan from the hotel, guests are greeted by a pair of large, dark wooden doors that display traditional carvings. Passing through the entrance doors, one is immediately welcomed by a large piece of latticed façade that appears to be glowing from within, as well as delicate porcelain pieces that are displayed in the foyer.

The courtyard, or the main dining hall in other words, is a spacious zone that exhibits ethereal tones of blue and grey. Leung adds: “This area is enriched by a dramatic skylight embellished with Chinese screens and a hanging, enchanting art piece tailor made by famous Japanese designer Hirotoshi Sawada.”

The hanging art installation is eye-catching and evokes free-flowing movement. According to Leung, the commissioned piece “recalls an elegant movement of a thousand fluttery silver birds. Running underneath is a series of exquisite tables and high back chairs with beautiful blue brocade, sitting on a glimmering raised platform in beige.”

The entire design of the main dining hall is consistent from side to side, and creates a memorable space as every detail has been thoroughly examined and justified.

The seating in the main dining hall located in the centre consists of tailor made chairs inlaid with embroidered brocade. The chairs’ textile design, inspired by Chinese traditional dress Qi-Pao, reveals the beauty of the art form’s details as well as the gracefulness of Oriental aesthetics.

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The eastern wing of the main area houses the restaurant’s bar. Behind the bar is a large, luminous backdrop of beige onyx stone and a mosaic of mother of pearl shells. Opposite the bar on the western wing of the hall are additional dining placements.

Beyond the main dining hall is a series of steps that lead guests to the upper level, where a second dining area consisting of smoked oak flooring and a brown colour palette is located. “It is adorned with Chinese paintings embroidered on wall panels, while curved benches with refined cream brocade sit on a soft rug, a tranquil, elegant and glamorous place for literati in old days is projected,” says Leung.

A private room sits next to the entrance and boasts large screen doors and panels that offset the koi-patterned feature walls and aquamarine carpet. According to Leung, the design evokes the image of fish leaping out of a “pond in a Chinese courtyard house and filling the space with a sense of pleasure.” Separating the private room are flexible folding doors that allow guests and employees to leave and enter the room at ease.

Leung notes: “To present a strong classical tone of old China in a Middle Eastern city, we blended the unique characteristics of Siheyuan, from layout to details, into a contemporary design that captures a truly elegant and graceful environment.”

Most of the furniture was tailor-made by Leung’s design team, and according to the chairman, they did not work with a particular supplier.

Leung adds: “Dazzling lighting schemes are rather commonly used in bars and clubs in the Middle East. Therefore, we applied it largely in the bar and the raised platform to create a lively atmosphere. Besides, with a skylight in the main dining hall, different lighting schemes for day and night are used, which give a unique charisma to the restaurant.”

Throughout the interior spaces, tones of blue, green and brown are applied quite heavily, and lighting provides a soft orange glow. According to Leung, red is a signature colour in Chinese culture, yet in this project the team integrates Chinese elements with blues and greens so as to create a modern and refined Chinese atmosphere.

Patterned screens are meant to symbolise fortune and luck in traditional Chinese tradition, and they are often used in Siheyuan.

“We refined the patterns with a contemporary touch and widely spread them in the foyer, the main dining hall and the private room to fill the space with Chinese elegance,” says Leung.

As this year’s winner of CID Awards Interior Design of the Year: Leisure & Entertainment, Yuan has made a remarkable impact on the market’s expectation of Far East interior design.

The judges hailed the interior design for its striking and powerful aesthetics. They explained that the “varying dynamic focal points have been effortlessly incorporated both within the interior construction and the FF&E.”

Fast facts about Yuan

  • Designed by Hong Kong-based Steve Leung Designers.
  • Located in Dubai’s Atlantis The Palm Hotel & Resort.
  • The interior scheme is based on the traditional Chinese courtyard, Siheyuan.
  • Maintains three separate dining areas: a private room, the main dining hall and the upper dining hall.
  • Winner of this year’s CID Awards 2014 Interior Design of the Year: Leisure & Entertainment.

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