The design inspiration behind the new Wild Rocket restaurant by PRODUCE is ‘two-fold’. Firstly, there is the story of how chef Willin Low’s culinary career started when he began cooking and hosting for his homesick friends while studying abroad. Secondly, Wild Rocket has transformed over the years from a local restaurant to a place that represents modern Singapore cuisine. Thus the new Wild Rocket design is modelled on a traditional Japanese teahouse, ‘chashitsu’ a unique building type developed solely for hosting and appreciation.
Before entering Wild Rocket, you will be greeted by the garden path (roji) expressed with compressed layers of fabric. The path winds and is lifted to give the entrance a sense of reduction in aperture creating the nijiriguchi, or ‘crawl doorway.’
The main entrance is designed to symbolically separate the quiet inside from the crowded, overwhelming outside world. Once in the restaurant, you will notice the intricate timber lattice structure which is a modern take of the material typically used in a chashitsu.
The alcove (tokonoma) becomes a private room that plays on perspective and depth, appearing to extend to infinity – expressed through a ‘tunnel perspective’ door feature. The chef’s, and host’s, preparation space (mizuya) sits prominently in the centre, framed in timber.
Casted on-site, a large earthen concrete bar forms the serving counter, and features custom designed hooks underneath it for bags. Handmade ceramic lamps by Mud Rock which were textured using potato peelers hang above. The tables are uniquely designed with cutlery drawers, to help manage manpower demands.
The wooden lattice structure featured both inside and outside the restaurant, contrasts with the surrounding postmodern architecture of the Hangout Mt Emily Hotel, allowing Wild Rocket to stand out.
This lattice structure is an ingenious geometric construction. It features 15,000 pieces of wood and when more layers are added, the pattern becomes more intricate; it is designed to contrast to the greatest possible degree with the existing two-plane post and beam structure.
Formed using a helix algorithm with seven different planar directions, it took six workers a total of four weeks to complete. With a rigid network of spiralling timber battens the array can be assembled infinitely. The lattice appears stunningly complex, but on closer examination one will discover its logic is incredibly simple, comprising of a single module. It is experimental, and not dissimilar to how Willin marries different, and sometimes unlikely, flavours together.
PRODUCE have found a new way of assembling timber battens. The end result is a ‘nest’, as Willin endearingly calls it, which complements the restaurant’s new approach to serve an omakase menu, and allows the chef to experiment with recipes, techniques and ingredients.
Images © Mindy Tan & Derrick Lim