Stack is a restaurant cornershop situated in a historical Tong Lau (shophouse) in Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong. Conceived by homegrown design duo, Wilson Lee and Alex Siu of WALL, the design captures the quintessential streetscape elements of old Hong Kong – metal grilles with decorative motifs and neon lights – but are now fading away quickly due to gentrification.
The 300 sq-ft restaurant features an underlying hue of cement walls and ceiling and reinstate the beauty of a traditional shop house: high ceiling, original Canton floor tiles and a sculptural metal motif complex that follow the patterns which were commonly seen in the old days. The restaurant has merged with the lively street scene through large banks of windows, and creating an open, friendly atmosphere within the space. The sleek stainless steel kitchen bar with seatings form an inseparable unit that sits right at the centre of the long, narrow space, and act as a communal table for the chefs, customers and the neighbourhood.
Stack is a hand-made project embracing the skill of local craftsmanship. WALL has collaborated with local blacksmiths who have over 40 years of experience in hand-making traditional metal motifs in Hong Kong. The motifs are being ensemble with different techniques, including twisting, bending and welding of the metal elements. The metals grilles are then casted into ceiling and wall features, shelving system and partitions, forming an abstract 3-dimensional metal element like an art piece floating in the space. At the shop front, the metal grilles cover the windows at the mezzanine level, echoing the similar patterns of those on the above floors and from the next door.
On the metal motif shelves that hung right above the kitchen, another showpiece also pays tribute to local craftsmanship: a line of red neon signs are carefully twisted into Chinese and English wordings that tells the concept keywords of the project.
The topic of sustaining a unique vernacular neighbourhood and craftsmanship has been a crucial discussion in rapidly developing cities in Asia. A lot of valuable elements are now fading away quickly due to gentrification. Stack is a project demonstrates the idea of retaining the existing elements but has them reinterpreted into new forms of design and creates a new chemistry with the neighbourhood. The recalling of local craftsmanship has been also given chances for local experienced craftsman to get involved in the progress of modernisation of old districts, and let the skills go on.
Along with the growing in Food & Beverage market in Hong Kong, a huge number of Western style cuisines and designs have airborne into different spots including some of the most traditional neighbourhoods in Hong Kong. Stack has turned the tide and embraces what has graced the neighbourhood over the past half century. The unique ‘Made in Hong Kong’ design approach has contrast itself among competitors and also as an exhibition space to showcase traditional Hong Kong elements and craftsmanships. The result arouses a huge public interest in both the restaurant and also traditional elements of Hong Kong.