ADAPTING WITH SHANGHAI'S FAST-PACED HOSPITALITY SCENE
A city with many food concepts, its fast-paced nature and peoples desire for the next new thing, Shanghai's food scene is constantly evolving. The corner of Fumin Lu and Changle Lu has always been a bustling "boom or bust" hospitality corner in Shanghai’s Xuhui District. Cantina Agave has held one of the greater vantage points here for over a decade from its residence in the middle of the strip of bars and restaurants on Fumin Lu. Cantina Agave has twisted and turned through the years as people’s eating and drinking habits have evolved. With many subtle and not so subtle tweaks over the years, Cantina decided to refresh the entire interior concept for 2020.
Cantina decided to work with their long-term design partner hcreates to devise a way to create visual impact from within the interior space that would draw customers in and away from the hustle and bustle.
The client wanted to make a radical layout change to rotate and relocate the bar to the back wall, facing it out toward the street. This made for an impactful interior and gave a great opportunity to make the previously obscured bar, the focus. With this as the starting point, hcreates then looked to create an environment which, allowed for both large and small groups to dine comfortably in a setting which felt equally comfortable during the day and evening.
The bar is framed by a large, back-lit, mirrored arch, presenting a large “coctels” sign in red neon. Bright blue tiles define the bar space from the dining area and link to the brand’s signature blue. Bare concrete walls line the sides of the restaurant with hidden lighting softly accentuating the natural textured surface. By removing the open kitchen, we created more dining space within the restaurant and reoriented the focus to the bar. Warm oak joinery completes the interior with clean, refined lines.
As a spot well known for cocktails and refreshing drinks, the preference was for high seating. To make sure we could still create comfortable day time dining we formed high level upholstered banquettes along each side, allowing for soft seating and flexible table sizes. Durability and quality were top priority and guided many of our material selections. The Joinery was all solid oak and for the flooring, wood-look tile was selected to provide durability for a late-night bar environment. A vivid, cacti, wallpaper print was custom designed for the bathroom and back-of-house areas, allowing for a playful moment.
Lighting was an important consideration for the client, incorporating soft back-lit lights and using low-temperature colour, we could create an atmosphere that was warm, moody, and comfortable. hcreates added custom industrial red lighting to contrast and bring relief from the blue providing cheerful, colour pops.
One of the trials of the project was a discovering a large immovable services duct running up through the floor from the car park below. hcreates cleverly concealed this by incorporating it into a large joinery unit that also served as a storage and service station. Adequate storage is always a challenge for smaller venues. To address this hcreates integrated storage into all the bench seats to allow for extra storage within the bases.
The demolition was completed before Chinese New Year was to resume straight after the Holiday. However, the global pandemic situation put construction on hold and with factories also closed it became particularly challenging to source materials and build custom furniture. hcreates worked closely with the client to keep the project moving and find suitable materials. Fortunately, as the new and improved Cantina Agave was unveiled the Shanghai spring was beginning to warm and people were able to emerge from their work-from-home bubble and into their favourite, neighbourhood streets and venues.
Photography by Brian Chua