A food hall-inspired dining venue by KeyConcept design firm draws upon fun, social spaces

A food hall-inspired dining venue by KeyConcept design firm draws upon fun, social spaces

KeyConcept, Restaurant design

One Third is a world of its own in the Dar Wasl mall, a collection of boutique-style shops in the residential development of Wasl Square.

Characterised by grey walls and grid-like structures and located at the heart of the mall, One Third is a food hall comprising six eateries.

According to Ernesto T Alarilla, design manager at KeyConcept, who was in charge of designing the space, the food hall defies the cliché of restaurants or food courts.

“It has an accessible and hidden-gem feel that is resonant all throughout the destination,” he says.

“Built on home-grown ideas and businesses, One Third is a podium for small to medium enterprises to come together and create a comprehensive gastronomic experience of destination and richly designed space,” says Alarilla.

A variety of seating options make the space flexible for working, dining or meetings.

The design concept of the space and its name was derived from an Islamic ‘hadith’ that directs one to fill 1/3 of the stomach with food, 1/3 with drink, 1/3 with breath.

According to Alarilla, several aspects were taken into consideration to make the space stand out from the rest of the mall.

“Given the location and its surroundings, we wanted to create a destination that is truly distinct in all aspects. Since Dar Wasl Mall and even nearby malls has a very distinct look and feel, we wanted to break free from the norm and stand out from the crowd.”

Exposed cement finishes, black metal frames, and an exposed scaffolding structure give the place an authentic look and feel.

Uncommon materials such as rippled glass, polycarbonate sheets and glass blocks add to the unique translucence of the space.

The design concept of the space is all about being a part of a whole or in constant change or progress, Alarilla says.

Each food stall offers a different cuisine as well as an eclectic interior style.

The grid-like structures that are characteristic of the place gives it a unifying look, while never being the most important element of the space or standing out as a finished product.

“One Third gave us a clear brief on how to create hard and soft layers that could help identify the space. That helped us in creating a progression of materials from the macro to the micro scale. Our first scheme had many materials, created an identity for each cuisine, and had more complex details. Although the outcome was very interesting, we found it too complicated, and we found that having different materials in each shop somehow disintegrated the space. So, we stripped it back to basics and created uniformity in terms of structure and materials that’s actually scalable, depending on the shop size.”

The raw and unfished base structure was transformed into a refined space by focusing on the micro scale of the space, which included fixtures and furniture.

According to Alarilla, a focus was placed on invoking people’s sense of touch and for this purpose, leather and velvet chairs as well as open grain wooden and stone tables were provided to the space.

In addition to these, decorative plants have been used to spruce up the otherwise rigid structure of the interiors.

“Raw, organic and lived-in materials came into our mind to counter the marbles and high finishes of the mall. We also searched for uncommonly used or seen materials in the city to forge a strong material palette that would sum up the visual characteristics. We searched for reclaimed scaffolding in the junk yards, which was one of the defining elements inside the space.”

Exposed ceilings, metallic shelving and screed flooring present a raw, industrial feel.

The eateries, each having a different operator and offering different cuisines, all sustain each other and become part of the whole.

“As part of the core values of One Third, we left some room for the operators to fill in the space with their brand values through decoration, signage and whatnots. Since this is every operator’s first shop ever, it made them feel at home and truly a part of the space,” says Alarilla.

Midnight Breakfast, an all-day breakfast shop, turned the place into a very homely living space with beautiful potted plants in all corners.

Habak, a Lebanese urban street food place, has decorated theirs with arabesque rugs and crockery.

Sugarmoo, a dessert place has splashes of pink in their area. Cow prints on walls are another striking feature of the place.

Kishmish, an authentic Afghan restaurant, showcases artworks from artists with the same roots.

Emirati coffee, a specialty coffee roastery has this industrial chicness touch on the place; while Piñata, which serves Mexican fusion food, has transformed their space into a burst of colours.

“The space also exemplifies social significance and responsibility, and several influences have made an impact on the over-all design of the space,” says Alarilla.

“It is hard to single out just one influence because the amalgam of several things created the complexity of the space that we were aiming for. It was a combination of home-style, chef’s table and street style. The social aspect somehow has driven the process of designing the space. We made sure the togetherness and community-centred destination was the highlight. We were also inspired by the term ‘home-grown’ in the sense that we tried to forge new and unique composition of interior elements, without being too refined or too messy. Even in the actual space, you could still feel the non-commercial quality that made it so authentic.”

The planning for the space revolved around the idea of the chef’s table, where people could see the action in the kitchen from where they are seated.

“The kitchen had to be blocked off in some areas, and at these places we used different types of translucent materials such as glass blocks, rippled glass and polycarbonate sheets to diminish the heaviness of a partition or separation.

“Having openness and leveraging on the community or social aspect of dining made the food hall really unique,” says Alarilla.

Some of the outlets also offer alfresco dining. “Since the space has good transparency outside, we wanted to extend the indoor outside. The whole outdoor seating is highlighted by a canopy that becomes the defining element for One Third. It’s a simple addition to the otherwise very decorative façade of the mall. This also delineates the space from the streetscape.”

Alarilla, however, reveals that he had more planned for One Third, but they didn’t come into fruition as they didn’t get the mandatory approval.

“We initially planned to request for approval to use the floor, ceiling and corridor walls. The centrality or the anchor tenant quality of One Third had to be redefined since we weren’t allowed to touch the existing floor and the ceiling of the corridor. We also wanted to have some sort of seating on the corridor where there is enough space, but of course, it didn’t push through due to restrictions,” he said.

Not one to focus on the drawbacks, Alarilla says, “Well, at least they let us change the finish of the walls to make it look cohesive.”


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