Interview: Mihai Popescu, Twins Studio

Mihai Popescu

Following a visit to Romania and to the winner of the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards Outside category, “Biutiful by the Lake”, designed by Twins Studio, the editorial team took the opportunity to interview Co-founder of Twins Studio, Mihai Popescu.

Twins Studio is a leading design company in Romania with over 15 years of experience. It is the aim of Twins Studio to challenge assumptions, bring ideas, redefine the norm and bring a client’s vision to life. The studio’s approach combines business objectives and market requirements with creativity and methodology.

Biutiful by the lake (Romania) Twins studio

How do you think great food and great interior design are linked?

One designer I worked with used to say: “good design combines technical and practical functions with emotion and beauty.” From a gastronomic perspective, this statement may change into “Great food combines technical and practical functions from different cultures with emotion and beauty.”

social club (Romania) Twins studio

Therefore, from my point of view, the definition of “great food” is given by two words: “fusion cuisine”. Fusion Cuisine is the path followed by gastronomy artists, whose creative minds and daring approach combine techniques and ingredients from various cultures and share their own personal touch, emotion and beauty with their consumers.

In order to talk about fusion cuisine, we should also mention the design; fusion design, to be more precise. And that is because nowadays spaces where the meal is served have multiple purposes, many of these being more significant than the primary one, or the feeding purpose itself. In the long run, these spaces have become a significant driver in communication and communion, socialisation, escape and leisure; a trigger for all the senses, not just taste. Think of a space which takes people to the origins of a gastronomic culture, guides them through it and makes them witnesses to its meeting with another.

uanderful (Romania) Twins studio
Therefore as gastronomic borders begin to fade away, the same is happening for interior design. For instance, when you get to “Uanderful”, you step into South American culture, which is perfectly mixed with Asian techniques and traditions. It takes one step to leave the crowded streets of Bucharest for the farther Peru or Chile. The atmosphere I created is the perfect complement for the art of gastronomy designers, and together they increase the joy and stimulate the consumer’s senses.
When the street food was relocated indoors, it became great food simply due to the great interior design which intensified it through all the senses: see, hear, smell, feel.

uanderful (Romania) Twins studio

Which area(s) of the world do you see as the best for new F&B concepts?

The most appropriate areas worldwide for Food & Bar concepts are the cosmopolitan ones. Big cities, which embody various cultures and experiences, are perfect. Places where gifted designers may come with sensational concepts.

fratellini (Romania) Twins studio

In order to better understand this concept, we should go back to its origins, in the ancient times, when it came with the people’s migration. A new wave of fusion cuisine came with the European invasion of America, with the Maori invasion of Spain or the Asian migration to South America, mainly in the Peruvian region. In the present, thanks to the freedom of movement and speech, many other cultures, once intangible to common people, are now accessible to everyone. In big cities, due to the big immigration wave from all around the world, the fusion cuisine is now the standard of many restaurants, which come with new and more spectacular menus everyday. The success of this so-called trend is the result of the people’s demands and standards, which subsequently became higher thanks to this accessibility, and of course, the result of the stimulation of human natural creativity and curiosity.

In order to make and implement such a concept, several creative minds should meet. From visionary chefs who build, experiment, create and combine techniques and ingredients of various cultures, to interior designers, all of them contribute to what we call a successful Food & Bar concept.

What has been your most challenging project to date and why?

It has always been my most recent or my current one. Because I always try to exceed my limits and I feel the last one is my best one.

uanderful (Romania) Twins studio

Uanderful. This is a restaurant located in a classic American building, with a New York and San Francisco-type architecture; it has been quite a challenge to integrate an eclectic look & feel, which incorporate three great cultures – American, Asian and South American. The challenge has also been the result of a unitary concept, which gave the direction to everything aimed for: design, gastronomy, bar.

What challenges are unique to hospitality / food and beverage space design?

There are several drivers that change a plain space into a hospitable and high-quality one. All these drivers must be carefully considered and interconnected. The consumer, the location of the space, the visual identity and the originality are the essential elements and the starting points of my creation.

social club (Romania) Twins studio

Where does your inspiration come from?

The street. Whether we talk about London, New Delhi, New York, Munich, Milan or Paris, the first thing I do when I get to a city is to be on its crowded streets, among its people and noises. I do the same in my home city, Bucharest. The social environment, the interaction with people around me, the excitement of a big city, these are the things whose incredible powers inspire me.

How do you define Design Excellence?

We can always find the definition of design excellence in nature. Biology is full of relatively rudimentary species, which have survived for thousands of years thanks to features which perfectly correlate with their habitat.

Take the tardigrade for instance. This is a small invertebrate animal, no longer than 1 mm with no breathing and no circulatory system. Tardigrades can be found everywhere on Earth, from the 6,000m heights of the Himalayas to 4,000m under the ground. These animals manage to survive in extreme conditions at temperatures between -273°C and +151°C and can live up to 10 years without water.

We can say the same when it comes to design, when the factors that compose an interior design correlate. Therefore, the design excellence can only be reached when the design adjusts to the complexity of the environment it is meant for.

fratellini (Romania) Twins studio

What do you think will be the most significant design trends in the near future for restaurant and bar design?

Genuineness is immortal. Great design does not adjust to patterns, it is above and beyond them, facing time and trends. If we talk about the consumer’s needs, it presently focuses on senses, on non-verbal communication and obviously on the smart and simple ways that combine technology with authenticity of cultures and its traditions.

What is the biggest benefit to you in winning an award from the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards?

My answer might sound a bit blunt, but I am a practical man and I am not interested in the pure glory. I just want to use it for functional reasons. Last year’s Restaurant & Bar Design Awards achievement simply makes me more trustworthy in front of my clients. Obviously they pick me for what I do, but the credit given by prestigious institutions in the field is essential. My visibility is also an important aspect to be considered, taking into account the media exposure and the connections resulted from achieving this award, which increase the designer’s awareness. Besides, it is the only competition I participate in, simply because I believe this is the most important one in the world in this sector.

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