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Chocolate Buddha

Architect: Maddison Architects, 2019

Nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect.

Chocolate Buddha is a casual Japanese dining house located at Melbourne’s Federation Square. Maddison Architects designed Chocolate Buddha for the same client more than 18 years ago so this project was an opportunity to reflect on the original design, the time in between and how we would now approach designing a new Chocolate Buddha.

This was also an opportunity to revisit the pragmatic aspects of the design. Ensuring each seat was orientated for external views across the plaza, providing a greater variety of seating types to suit different patron dining experiences, and acknowledging a loyal patron demographic by allowing for more than generous circulation spaces for true universal access throughout the venue.

Inspired by the iconic lobby of the recently demolished Yoshiro Taniguchi’s 1962 Okura Hotel (Tokyo), our design attempts to emphasize the high volume and modulate it with lighting columns and carefully proportioned fitments to create a greater spatial order. “You Only Live Twice” was filmed at the Okura and somehow it seems an appropriate influence for our second design opportunity.

This Japanese sushi house takes inspiration from the stylistic roots of Japanese Mid Century Architecture. This new dining hall demonstrates the tradition of carefully conceiving space in a modulated, proportioned and order way to create an overall sense of calm and lightness.

A neutral and raw palette of laminated hardwood, sinuous blackened steel and modular cement sheet panels create an interior which pursues the honesty and simplicity of the food on offer.

A bigger agenda also exists. A delicate field of lights over the communal tables speak to the external catenary lighting illuminating Federation Square. Noren fabric screens (traditionally used in Japanese entranceways) have been reimagined to dance around the glazing in dialogue with the architectural screens on the facade of Lab Architecture Studio’s, now heritage-listed, group of buildings.

Photos: Will Watt

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RECORDED LIVE: SUNDAY 26 JULY 2020

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