Art meets culinary arts

When the buzzing creative team at Snøhetta collaborates with Bronx-based food, design and art collective Ghetto Gastro, it seems something unique is bound to happen. In this case, the culinary cultural space Burnside in Japan's capital Tokyo.
by Linda Pezzei | 7/5/2021

Looking inside Burnside reveals the soul of this intimate gastronomic and cultural concept: mysterious and dark - but by no means repellent. On the contrary, one is virtually drawn into this "black hole", which on closer inspection turns out to be a subtly designed art space that is not so gloomy at all, with a cleverly controlled lighting atmosphere and attention to detail. During the day, it is a relaxed café. In the evening, however, the place transforms into a vibrant lounge.

Even the location of Burnside seems surreal to the Western eye. The shop, designed from front to back, is located in a so-called Conbini, a New York-style Family Mart. The shopping centre in Harajuku offers everything you need for daily life: Groceries, magazines, clothes, ATMs, a post office, a ticket office and a copy shop. A city within a city, you could say. And definitely a melting pot. What has been missing so far: a cultural meeting place.

The architects of Snøhetta have now conceived and designed this together with the cooking collective Ghetto Gastro and the local studio Kooo Architects for the art and design studio En One Tokyo. The idea of the open kitchen includes elements of both a bodega and a bar. The amber-coloured accents, which gently reflect the light, contribute to the lounge atmosphere, while the flower sculpture "Block Flowers" by Makoto Azuma stands out visually from the monochrome background and attracts everyone's gaze. Acoustically, the space is defined by a sound system designed by Devon Turnbull.

Thirty guests are seated at the custom-built oval dining tables and can enjoy the creations of up-and-coming chefs who take turns at the pots in the open kitchen. Ghetto Gastro - who else - kicked things off. The concept: shared enjoyment as a catalyst for a global culture and to strengthen the feeling of togetherness. The Bronx meets Tokyo and Tokyo meets the world. The most important message here is that the setting is not a trendy district or elite hotspot, but a simple Conbini. "New York-style Bodegas - or Conbini, as they are called in Japan - are a cultural element common to Tokyo and the Bronx. The ubiquitous ease of the quick takeaway has cemented itself as a permanent fixture in the urban fabric of both cities. Consequently, the transition between day and night and café and restaurant/lounge was a driving theme of the interior design," says Snøhetta Architects.

Nevertheless, in this unagitated environment, one can enter a completely new world by climbing up to the second floor. A wall of fabric-covered windows filters the daylight - subdued by day, atmospheric by night. Where the two sculptural room arches intersect, the café & dining area merges fluidly, yet clearly visible, into the open kitchen. In this way, an invisible border is created, which, like the entire room, seems to be in twilight.

Like at any good house party, the cooking area is right on the threshold between private and public, inevitably becoming the centre of attraction for all eyes. Enveloped by heat and fire, the cooks are the centre of attention here, with the well thought-out kitchen layout easily adaptable to the demands of future chefs. The design and layout of the space are maximally flexible, allowing the Burnside to offer space for a variety of different pop-up uses and events.


5 Chome-12-14 Jingumae
Shibuya City
Tokyo 150-0001


Architecture & Design