From its enigmatic entry portal, through the dark, compressed approach corridor, to the tense architectonic space of its first-floor bar, Hihou is a poised and dramatic exercise in spatial experiences. Working within a robust and muscular shell, where the overhead plane of coffered slab and weighty perimeter beams impose a strong presence, the designers have amplified the existing fine qualities of the space with precise spatial moves and materiality. Rather than recourse to any literal imagery, Hihou’s Japanese inspiration and theme are communicated through the elegant composition of each component, a recurrent motif of ingenious interlocking detail or intimate space, and the overall neat fit into this refined reductionist space. Yet it is unmistakably Melbourne too, with varied visual connections to the streets below, and its deliberate cosmopolitan blending of urban references. The clarity, control and embedded nature of every move and moment at Hihou create a memorable hybrid of contemporary East-West hospitality and a Zen-like haven in the heart of the city.
Architect – Denton Corker Marshall