Nicha, meaning “Hello” in the Tujia dialect, is the name of Atelier A’s latest project, a restaurant specialized in Tujia cuisine. Its natural and rustic decoration features the ethnic style and artistic traditions of the Tujia people.
The restaurant is located in an inconspicuous joint of Liulichang Street and Yangmeizhuxie street in Dashilan of Beijing. By highlighting the red bricks of the original building, the architect manages to make it eye-catching yet not abrupt among the grey buildings in the area.
Red bricks are used extensively in this building, including the façade, walls and floors. In order to keep its original outlook, most old bricks are preserved. Only a few new ones are added. These additional bricks are not newly made but recycled, removed from old buildings in Shanghai and then transported all the way to Beijing. They are of the same high quality and pure colour of the original bricks which are nowhere to be found in Beijing. The mark of the additional bricks is deliberately left uncovered in accordance with the genuine and unaffected style of Atelier A.
The façade has been rebuilt to make the hollow and parquet pattern, which dilutes the direct sunshine during the day, and creates an enigmatic effect at night. The steel partition at the entry is moved inward for one metre to leave a transition between the interior and the busy street, so that the customers inside do not have to directly face the pedestrians and those who wait to get in can have somewhere to stand.
Hot rolled steel is used for stairs and frames for the natural dark grey colour of its oxidation surface. Red bricks of the walls are preserved. Warm grey stucco is applied on the upper part of the walls to cover the marks of cables and brighten the space.
The main language of the interior decoration is composed of lines. The natural chiseled lines correspond with the curves of lighting tracks and bubble lights. On the walls are hanging portraits of Tujia women painted with abstract lines by the architect herself to represent Tujia traditional costume and headwear.
Another artistic feature of the Tujia ethnic group is Xilan Kapu, a traditional and unique handicraft of brocade. Xilan Kapu tapestries with various colours and patterns are made by local artisans to fit the different themes of the rooms.
The original layout of the second floor is kept, which is divided into a big private room, a small one and a public dinning area. The two rooms are decorated respectively with green porcelain tiles and red ceramic tiles according to their themes.
The terrace floor is also paved with red bricks to match its parapet. The bubble lights installed around the walls echo the theme of lines in the interior. The customers can enjoy the distant view of Dashilan or the busy scene of Yangmeizhuxie Street downstairs.