Singapore, Southeast Asia. Welcome to COMO Dempsey Hill, a taste paradise, the food & beverage lifestyle enclave of Christina Ong. The leader of Singapore’s COMO group has called in architect-designer Paola Navone for the overall orchestration of her hillside emporium, created by converting a cluster of long, rugged ‘boxes’ with very high pitched roofs, first built as barracks for the British army. Christina Ong had already met the challenges of Point Yamu at Phuket in Thailand, and the Metropolitan at Miami Beach for COMO Hotels and Resorts, together with the visionary Italian designer, “an eclectic dreamer” as she calls herself, with an unconventional background in the movements Alchimia and Memphis, in contrast with Italian academic architectural culture at the end of the 1970s. They are completing the renovation of the spa which will be opened in spring 2021 for the Como Castello del Nero project, the first COMO Group property in Italy.
Getting back to the enclave in Singapore, the shared key of interpretation has been that of producing the image of a grand, versatile sensorial machine, cool and engaging, a must-see destination for the bon vivant. At Building 15 there is the new Culina, which brings together a bistro/wine bar and global gourmet market in its enclosure: this is the latest one, opened in 2019 (after the acquisition in 2012 on the part of the Group). Building 18, on the other hand, since 2018 has had the name of COMO Cuisine (a part, because the other part contains the Dover Street Market Singapore, in keeping with the concept created in London in 2004 by the stylist Rei Kawakubo, founder of the brand Comme des Garçons, and developed in an autonomous way). Building 17 is for the Dempsey Cookhouse and Bar, Ippoh Tempura Restaurant Bar, and the Candlenut restaurant, which came into being in 2017 and 2016, together with the kitchens of their prize-winning chefs.
The fil rouge of all these mix&match spaces is the offering of healthy cuisine that reflects the profound value of food in our lives, at all latitudes. And dinner is served with design that unites peoples, amidst contaminations, transformations and originality. A globetrotter by vocation and great master of seeing and putting together ingredients from different worlds, Paola Navone has managed to create an all-around inspirational place, which conveys the meaning of relationships between people and spaces, and of wellness as a philosophy of hospitality.
“I like to touch and mix materials, forms, colors and textures; even at the market around the corner, I can always find something that attracts me and stimulates creativity,” she says. The entire project has been produced on a local level. The artisans are a great resource here. Many things were found in Asia and Indonesia and reworked, with the pleasure of transforming traditional materials, from bamboo to pottery, with their simplicity and beauty, also with their imperfections.
The latest Culina, which brings together a gourmet market and a modern bistro, has a Parisian shabby chic atmosphere, where the design choices become more radical. Here you can also buy fresh, exclusive products of the highest quality, foods and wines from around the world, the Orient, Europe, America and Australia. From Vietnamese fish sauces to soy sauce from Taiwan or Korean marinated treats, the market offers wagyu beef, Australian or French fine de claire oysters. A wealth of visual stimuli arrives from the infinite colors and forms of the products on sale, suggesting the idea of an even lighter custom container.
It has become an all-white neutral box, without altering the original structure, emphasized at the base by the dark color given to the very high columns that set the rhythm of the unified space, while in the upper part the design plays with the effects of suspended luminous installations: the giant white paper lanterns in the form of letters that spell the word ‘market’ on one side, and the large silhouettes studded with light bulbs descending in a grille of wooden beams, on the other.
Only a curtain of metal mesh acts as an element of separation between bistro and market. A single material, brushed steel, is shared by the technical furnishings (from refrigerators to shelves), while small tiles in delicate hues and a variety of forms for tables and chairs, custom-made in Asia, add more decorative accents to the wine bar and restaurant zones. Everything is always well balanced, making each item fit harmoniously into the whole. The small shops around the bistro have been organized with special care.
Solo una tenda in rete metallica funge da elemento di separazione tra il bistrot e il market. Un unico materiale, l'acciaio spazzolato, accomuna gli arredi tecnici (dai frigoriferi alle scaffalature), mentre una teoria di piastrelline dalle nuance delicate e una varietà di forme di tavoli e sedie prodotte in Asia su disegno conferiscono accenti più decorativi alle zone wine-bar e ristorazione. Il tutto, però, sempre ben ponderato, affinché ogni segno armonizzi nell’insieme con i protagonisti della scena. A tutti i negozietti che coronano il bistrot, sono state poi riservate specifiche attenzioni e cure.
Each counter and zone, from fish to meat, cold cuts to cheeses, baked goods to desserts, features playful captions with visual appeal: figurative motifs reworked with brushstrokes of Pop Art colors, which return in the graphic design of the shopping bags. After all, Culina represents the most precious showcase of the experience offered at COMO Dempsey Hill: the store with its accent on seasonal products and their makers is the supply point for restaurants, professional chefs, but also homemakers and ordinary visitors. The plus is that all of them can immediately shift from the pleasure of shopping to the delight of the flavors of the foods prepared in the kitchen of the bistro.
Project Paola Navone - Photos ourtesy Studio OTTO