A richly layered design narrative takes guests at modern French restaurant Le Lapin on an immersive dining experience – one filled with cultural symbolism, fairy tales, and references to classic literature.
Le Lapin is a quirky modern French restaurant located in the Macau Science Center, a distinctive conical-shaped building designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei.
Influenced by the venue’s circular form, the owner’s Chinese Zodiac (the rabbit), and Macau’s status as an intersection between East and West, the design team at Wilson Associates New York arrived at one prominent and richly layered design narrative: Jules Verne’s story of travelling to the moon, and the Chinese fairy tale of the Jade rabbit in the moon.
In Chinese folklore, the rabbit is the companion of the moon goddess. This relationship fueled every element of the design, from the entryway to the private dining rooms and restrooms. Then there is ‘Monsieur Rabbit’, the protagonist and inspiration for this tale. Monsieur Rabbit is a French sophisticate, a wine aficionado and a bit of cad. As an icon based off turn-of-the-century French lithographs, his French ‘je nous se quais’ is found throughout the entire space, particularly in the finishes and furnishings, with vignettes alluding to the life and times of this colourful character immersing each guest in the narrative.
“With a strong and unifying design narrative, everyone involved was inspired and of the same mind/vision,” recounts Dan Kwan, Vice President and Managing Director of Wilson Associates New York.
Spatially, Le Lapin is laid out in a perfect circle. Guests exit the elevator and arrive in a French art gallery setting with a tongue-in-cheek artwork of flying candles overhead.
From there, guests are greeted by the infamous ‘wine wall’, which displays the owner’s wine collection worth more than $2 million. Serving as the restaurant’s main centrepiece, the wall stretches 16-metres-high, features three levels of catwalks, and various LED/fibre optic starlight elements that play into the lunar design motif.
Guests can proceed along the wine wall and into the bar-lounge area, which features a bar designed like a ‘floating’ crescent moon in backlit onyx. Crystal whiskey bottles are housed in ‘floating’ mirror boxes behind the bar, so they don’t obstruct the views of the Macau skyline. Behind airy gold glo-mesh panels lie the main 50-seater dining room, an elegant, tailored space marked by a neutral colour palette.
The wine tasting room is a double-height volume with floor-to-ceiling bookcases and shelving units for books, thematic artwork, accessories and wine refrigerators. In addition, these bookcases and shelving units feature trap doors that lead into private dining rooms, and guests are also able to look into the private spaces via ‘peek-a-boo’ windows.
Le Lapin displays many other elements that play on the rich narrative. For example, the carpets in the private dining rooms are inspired by poetry: the one in the larger room is based on Jules Verne’s De la Terre à la Lune (From the Earth to the Moon), while the one in the smaller room features Chinese poet Su Shi’s Mid-Autumn Moon. Not only that, but the poem is angled in such a way as to guide one’s eye out over the Macau skyline, inviting patrons to pause and reminisce.
The sense of playfulness extends to the bathrooms. Here Monsieur Rabbit and his companion Mademoiselle Rabbit mark the doors of the his and hers’ washrooms while inside, faucets spring forth from the mirrors, cheeky artwork and graphic wallcoverings adorn the walls, and sconces are a nostalgic throwback to Aladdin lamps commonly used in Victorian times.
Wilson Associates was not only responsible for the project’s interior design work, but also the development of the overall brand identity for Le Lapin, from business cards to menus, signage and more.
“The force and will of the story carried us through,” says Kwan. “Everything fell into place naturally and happened seamlessly. In fact, the base storyline led all of us into other mini storylines – some Eastern, some Western – which added complexity and greater intrigue to Le Lapin.”