In a place like Beijing, where anything goes, designers often bring in art installations or bold flower arrangements to add verve to upscale interiors. But in their design of Nishimura, a Japanese restaurant on the second floor of Beijing’s Shangri-La Hotel, the architects at CL3 had no use for add-ons. Using mostly wood, the Hong Kong–based firm turned architecture into sculpture, creating a place that blurs the line between design and art.

“We try to avoid just buying artwork at the end of a design and putting it everywhere,” says William Lim, managing director of CL3, which Shangri-La invited to redesign Nishimura as part of a larger project that included the renovation of the existing hotel and the addition of an adjacent 142-room tower. In Hong Kong, CL3 had designed two branches of Nadaman, a Japanese restaurant, in Shangri-La hotels, bringing in a consultant to contribute stark dry floral arrangements. “But here we didn’t work with another artist. Instead, we built art into our design,” explains Lim.

Entering the 5,400-square-foot restaurant, visitors check in with the maître d’ at an oak-colored travertine desk connected to a raised pool (made of the same travertine). Through a screen of dark elm slats, they see a sake bar and get an oblique view of a 26-foot-long partition assembled from 1,000 sheets of engineered plywood. As they approach the partition, which separates the bar from a dining area, guests encounter the restaurant’s coup de grâce: a pair of curvaceous openings dug into the 4-foot-thick wall. One cutout begins as a wide oval then narrows to a moon-shaped hole on the opposite side—as if a giant knot had been gracefully excised from an oversize chunk of lumber—while the other starts narrow and goes wide. The result gives patrons on both sides of the wall tantalizing, shifting views. Workers spent weeks laminating the precut sheets of plywood, then sanding and smoothing them with wax. Apart from its aesthetic attraction, the partition serves as a clever way of hiding two structural elements: a low beam and a large column.

Lim’s inspirations—Japanese gardens and the changing seasons—led him to plant dried cherry trees in beds of white pebbles in places such as the teppanyaki room and to use a limited range of wooden tones that signal a shift from cool to warm. The sun peeks into the restaurant through a skylight in one of the dining areas.


Beijing Shangri-La Hotel Limited

CL3 Architects Limited
7/F, Hong Kong Arts Centre,
2 Harbour Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Phone : (852) 2527 1931
Fax : (852) 2529 8392

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Partner in Charge: William Lim – Managing Director

Design Director: Joey Wan – Design Director

Project Designer: Jane Arnett – Senior Associate, Rain Ho – Senior Interior Designer

M&E Consultant:
Parsons Brinckerhoff (Asia) Ltd.
Tel: (852) 2579 8810

Light Source International (Asia) Ltd.
Tel: (852) 2521 9288

Kitchen Consultant:
Bei-Wong Automation Equipment Installation Co., Ltd.
Tel: (86-10) 5822 0071

General contractor:
CSCEC Decoration Engineering Company (Group)
Tel: (010) 8808 3185

Eddie Siu
Tel: (662) 233 2055



Structural system:
Doors: Custom made by General Contractor

Sourced by General Contractor

Interior finishes:
Demountable partitions:
Custom made wooden frame tree feature frosted glass operable wall in Teppanyaki Room by general contractor

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Huge wooden feature wall in engineered plywood in general dining by general contractor (refer to image no. 043)

Wooden hemisphere feature in Private Room by general contractor (refer to image no. 100)

Dark Oak Veneer in Sake Bar feature wall supplied by Hong Kong Unique Furniture Work (refer to image no. 106)

Plastic laminate:
Light beige Japanese shoji screen in Tatami Room sourced by general contractor

Special surfacing:
Floor and wall tile:
Dark grey reconstituted marble in Private Teppanyaki sourced by general contractor

White reconstituted marble in General Area and Cashier sourced by general contractor

Light beige oak timber floor in General Area sourced by general contractor (Refer to image 072)

Custom made “Moss” pattern hand tufted carpet in A la Carte Dining by Carpet Associates Co. Ltd.

Screen :
Screen of bent engineered oak veneered plywood in sushi bar custom made by  general contractor (refer to image no. 123)

Table top in Booth seats - Clear glass over circular wood blocks cut in cross section custom made by general contractor (refer to image no. 102)

Chairs in Teppanyaki Room - Brown fabric with square pattern by Cetec Ltd. (refer to image no. 088)

Task lighting:
Frosted Glass (tree branches liked) light fitting in Teppanyaki Room custom made by Art Creation Lighting Design Ltd (Refer to image no. 088)

Pendant Light in Booth Seat Area supplied by I.F. Lighting Limited (refer to image no. 102)

Polyamide Pendant Light in Private Room supplied by Matisse Limited (refer to image no. 080)

Red travertine finished fountain and pool at entrance area custom made by main contractor (refer to image no. 056)