Designed by: Ste. Marie
For client: Aburi Restaurants Floor area: 440.00 M² Year of completion: 2019
Submitted for: Restaurant of the Year

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© Ian Lanterman

About the Project

The 1970 Osaka Expo presented a vision of the future imagined with the fusion of tradition and technology. Yoshiaki Shiraishi brought his own vision to Osaka, debuting to the international audience a harmony of tradition and innovation with his conveyor belt sushi. The design for Toronto’s TORA–from restrauntur Seigo Nakamura–is a continuation of Shiraishi’s innovation. TORA articulates the original spirit of the concept–high-quality, traditional fare that creates its own idealistic future.
With a cool palette void of texture, the space differentiates itself immediately, creating an alternative reality, not unlike a film set. Perception and depth are explored with through ovoid niches along the steel clad walls, where glowing sculptures act like stage props. Shadow and light are continuously at play creating, an enveloping, scenic space. Influenced by the dramatic atmospheres of Czech scenographer, Josef Svoboda. Parallel to our design brief, Svoboda’s scenography is realized as a synthesis of traditional methods with technical innovations to create a ‘total’ design experience.
Drawing elements from science fiction, cinema, metabolic architecture and the unknown, TORA transports diners into fantasy. The plasticity of place and of time along with the inherent fascination with what is unknown become central concepts in the experience of Tora, allowing us to reimagine what the hospitality experience can be.

What’s unique about it

As a base character for the restaurant, we took the cues for the mechanized, sterile system for food delivery - an intelligent, computerized, stainless steel, rigid conveyor belt. Our base architectural details are constructed of straight, grid-based materials, that appear as austere as the conveyor itself. The rigid layout of the banquettes, the repetitive wall paneling, the illuminated ceiling grid. As a counterpoint to this rigidity, we layered on design gestures that we perceived to be unconstrained by modern materiality & form - a facade glass feature & doorway that appear to be melting, peculiar lights with no perceivable illumination source, a scallop-shaped bar ceiling that feels as though it is about to swallow up the dining room. This tension created between the melting forms & rigid grids spreads throughout the space. Prefabricated steel and glass panels are in contrast to hand blown glass light fixtures by local studio Bocci, and London-based glass maker Jochen Holz.
Our site was situated on the second floor of an upscale shopping centre. Our biggest challenge was creating a unique retail storefront that drew people up to the restaurant for a moment of mystery and escape from the often generic atmosphere of a mall. We used this to our advantage: the journey from threshold, through hallway & then elevator allows the guest to leave behind the indoor shopping experience and be transported into a completely unfamiliar environment.

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© Ian Lanterman
© Josef Svoboda's scenography ‘light and shadows’

Project Inspiration: For Reference

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© Ian Lanterman
Location of project:
Ste. Marie

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