Restaurant No. 5

Bonsai was created by Paulo Trancoso in 1987. At that time there was only one Japanese restaurant in Lisbon, and didn't serve sushi. In 1989 the Yokochi family took over the restaurant, and so it remains to this day. In the meantime, many Japanese and semi-Japanese restaurants appeared, many others closed, and Bonsai persevered and affirmed itself as the best and most traditional. The restaurant is virtually unchanged since the beginning. It lacks important improvements, but customers insist that nothing should change, that Bonsai is perfect as it is, with all its imperfections. This was Luísa Yokochi's statement when she commissioned us to make a project to renovate the restaurant.

One of the aspects that we most appreciate in Bonsai is its detachment from the outside. Street light, noise and movement do not pass through the shōji. The interior is dense, quiet and intimate. It's an anti-modern space. The atmosphere of the restaurant results from the fairly unplanned gathering of several ad hoc solutions, which are almost temporary in nature, but highly sensitive and effective.

Our project tried to improve the restaurant's functioning and, therefore, many spaces changed position and shape. But we didn't want this atmosphere to be lost. We tried to isolate the elements that construct this atmosphere, eliminating all that was accessory or ineffective, to then re-combine them, in a new version of the same thing. The intervention is therefore not so much authorial as processual, in the sense employed in chemistry: as if the restaurant were distilled to become denser, quieter and more intimate. There may be no efforts or arguments to prevent the most loyal customers' disillusionment. Maybe time will show that everything we have done, being strange, is totally familiar.

Title Restaurant No. 5 — Bonsai
Location Lisbon, Portugal
Built Area 135 m²
Site Area 140 m²
Conclusion 2016
Team Vasco Matias Correia, Patrícia Ferreira de Sousa, Sebastien Alfaiate and Joana Ramos
Images Camarim