Located in a heritage building in Fengsheng Li in the center of Shanghai, CHARCOHOL is a restaurant and cocktail bar specializing in charcoal-grilled global cuisine and craft cocktails. STUDIO8 was commissioned to design the visual identity, architecture re-use, interior, landscape and soft decoration for the project.
Designed by Studio 8
Photographed by Sven Zhang
Creating an exclusive food experience always starts with a strong concept in mind, which gradually evolves until it’s finalized with carefully selected details. When Chef Mandela Zhu first met STUDIO8’s design principals, Shirley and Andrea, he told them the food and drinks of his new bar are greatly inspired by forest and fire. The miraculous chemistry of taste happens when carefully selected simple ingredients are cooked at the right temperature for the right time. In a way, design is very similar to culinary arts. STUDIO8 was very inspired by the chef’s cooking principles in all of their F&B projects. This is why Shirley and Andrea named the restaurant CHARCOHOL, a combination of charcoal and alcohol, also the concept of CHARCOHOL’s logo.
STUDIO8 embarked on creating a space that reflects the chef’s vision and ultimately goes beyond it. Inspired by the transformative nature of charcoal and its role in food creation, the design unfolds around an axis of time, crossed by an axis of temperature.
From south to north, stretching across the main entrance, three dining halls conceptualize the transformation of wood to charcoal and finally to ash. The notion of the dining concept is summed up in the small portico at the entrance, where a half-burnt wooden column hangs from the ceiling and ends in a lava stone block on the floor, welcoming the guests.
Consequently, the first hall implements wood flooring and preserves the untouched original walls of the building, while the main hall is converted to total black. At the end of the space follows the third hall, which once again shows some of the original brick wall and is finished with white-grey plastered walls. A glass box with ashes adorns this space as well. In the orthogonal direction, one can observe the temperature axis, spanning from the kitchen to the fireplace and projected on the ground through reddish tiles.
In line with the concept, each dining hall obtains its own particular ambience from partially custom-made furniture, lighting and installation. The wood hall opens towards the main plaza of Fengsheng Li, where sunlight shines through the trees onto the brick walls. In the center of CHARCOHOL is the main black hall, the most intimate and cozy area in the whole space. The rough texture of the black walls and floors reflects light differently throughout the day, creating a changing ambience. At the cross of the time and the temperature axes, above the bar, a giant installation of fanned palm leaves arranged by STUDIO8 hangs underneath the reflective stainless steel dome, celebrating the banquet of food and drink. Along the time axis in the ash area, another installation made of banana leaves and eucalyptus seeds hangs like a bouquet chandelier, representing renewal from ash.
Considering that the restaurant occupies a historic house in the center of Shanghai, the renovation demands a respectful attitude towards the architectural heritage. Therefore, special details were developed to connect the new facade elements and the old structure. The newly added steel and glass structure is completely detached from the original building, and a system of special wall washer lighting highlights the beauty of the architecture, giving it the quality of a museum.
CHARCOHOL also has an outdoor seating area, which carries on the design of the ash area and is an extension of the temperature axis. The main feature here is the glass room, where guests can enjoy freshly baked food from the nearby brick stove. The garden also has a mix of aromatic flowers and herbs, some of which are used in the kitchen.