location: Armada Tower 2, Cluster P, JLT, Dubai (UAE)
area: 478 m²
graphic design: PRAVDA Design
SOON is a Japanese izakaya bar located in Dubai's prestigious JLT residential complex. The interior of Soon does not have red rice lanterns, mats, and other oriental attributes. Instead, it has pixels, glass blocks, and a robot assembled from the iconic Japanese audio equipment of the 80s and 90s.
When developing the idea, we realized that the Dubai market has enough Japanese cuisine establishments decorated in a traditional style. So, our task was to create an alternative concept based not on cultural stereotypes from museums and books but on our own emotional experience from our first encounters with Japan.
The unique vibe of Soon is defined by the nostalgic images of the mass Japanese culture that shook the world at the end of the last century. Appliances, electronics, cars, games, anime, and manga - at some point, all of these gained global attention, demand, and love. The wave of fashion for all things Japanese has gradually faded. Still, in the bar's interior, we have recreated that very first euphoria from interacting with an exotic and seductive universe.
The space layout includes a shared room with an inverted bar and a laconic sushi station, a chill area on the covered terrace, and a karaoke room. The inversion bar became one of the chips in the zoning of the main space. It consists of two bar counters flowing into a rounded wall that separates the seating area behind the bar. To get there, guests walk inside the bar island and find themselves behind the second line of equipment, behind the mixologist. In this way, you can choose a place behind the counter, opposite it or take a comfortable seat inside the bar.
The primary materials of the interior are ceramic tiles by Mutima, illuminated smoky glass blocks, wood, leather, metal, and textured plaster. We combined cool, glossy surfaces with cozy matte textures. We used a traditional Japanese processing technique for the wooden furniture when the surface acquires a unique tactile texture. The emotion of the place is determined by the subdued light implemented by Expolight.
Guests are greeted by a large-scale sculpture in the form of a robot assembled from vintage Japanese audio equipment. This is an allusion to Transformers or Voltron, images from Japanese popular culture that we have all known since childhood.
The colored tiles on the floor, placed in an asymmetrical order, are pixel graphics, the meaning of which is known only to those in the know. Since local laws are strict about sexuality and explicit images, we made this reference to Japanese ahegao culture barely noticeable.
– It was important for us to present the Japanese format of a traditional bar through a set of subjective and somewhat eclectic associations. The interior evokes an emotional response from guests because of the pixel graphics we saw in the first Nintendo games, the iconic radios that were given to teenagers for their birthdays, the Transformers that are still in a box in the attic of our parent's house - this is Japan, which captivated us long before we consciously got acquainted with the country's deep culture and traditions. – says Dmytro Bonesco, art director of YOD Group.