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An Architect's Keywords to Achieve Atmosphere

Keiji Ashizawa draws coziness out of a minimalist, industrial palette for Grillno, an eatery in Kawaguchi, Japan.

A dimly lit restaurant with gray walls, wooden tables, and black chairs.

Designed by Japanese architect Keiji Ashizawa, Grillno is a minimalist restaurant that makes use of industrial materials including concrete, steel, and wood wool cement board.

By Rachel Gallaher

Photographed by Tomooki Kengaku

As seen in Issue 57

When Keiji Ashizawa started designing Grillno, a 26-seat restaurant located in Kawaguchi, Japan (a commuter town about an hour north of Tokyo), he used a set of words as a touchstone for the process: “Fun, relaxing, close friends, and family,” the architect says. “With these keywords, we wanted to achieve a certain atmosphere.”

Built on the second floor of a concrete apartment building, the restaurant offers a large selection of smoked and grilled foods; a long concrete counter that gives diners a front-row seat to watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen. The dining room, which is designed around the counter, has a handful of additional seating options, from four-top tables tucked into a nook to a cozy sofa perfect for perching on while sipping cocktails.

A gray-walled restaurant with a concrete table and black chairs.

The cement counter is the dining room’s centerpiece. Ashizawa designed its curved end to serve as a table for groups. He also designed the thin steel light fixture that spans the countertop.

The materials palette, comprising concrete, steel, and wood in mostly neutral tones, is minimal, and Ashizawa opted for wood wool cement board (a material made from cement and shaved wood fibers) for the walls, which improves the acoustics in the small space. A thin, beam-like steel light fixture, designed by Ashizawa and fabricated by Super Robot, hangs above the counter. “We wanted the guests to feel at home,” Ashizawa explains. “To achieve the cozy and relaxing atmosphere, we tried to use as few materials as possible, worked expertly by craftsmen.” The restaurant is normally only open in the evenings (during the lockdown they have been offering lunch as well), and its moody, sensual décor is an escape from the busy city outside.


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