Organic Ambience – Sakura by Bergman & Co.

Words by Aaron Chapman
Photography by Timothy Kaye
Interior Design by Bergman & Co.
Joinery by Mood Workshop
Branding by Raft Studio

On Melbourne’s busy Lonsdale Street, interior design studio Bergman & Co. offers an intimate patron experience at Sakura – an izakaya that opens a contemporary hand to traditional Japanese influences.

To complement the client’s established kaiten sushi venues, Sakura is designed with a deep attention to light, striking a memorable balance in materiality and tone. Set in Melbourne’s cultural landmark of Wesley Place, this relaxed setting to drink and dine is refined yet approachable, attracting diverse clients, from students to corporate professionals.

Each space within Sakura is distinctly its own, with thoughtful visitor engagements along the way.

The revolving sushi train takes centre stage and establishes a meditative undertone in both ambient sound and movement. The ambience is reflected in the material choices that separate space. Rice paper screens acting as traditional shoji dividers have several purposes, including forming an alluring backdrop for passing foot traffic, while simultaneously obscuring preparation spaces. Delicate timber-framed screens finished with hand-drawn illustrations delineate the raised individual booths in the central dining space. And concealment is continued through the reinterpretation of traditional noren curtains, hanging in this context in olive-toned leather to match the organic nature of the venue as a whole, offering momentary glimpses to the busy kitchen beyond.

But not everything at Sakura is hidden. Those along the Lonsdale Street thoroughfare are to be enticed by a sashimi bench and greeting station in plain view. A prominent corner of the street front venue also allows window views of the elegant cocktail bar and emphasises Sakura’s interest in preparing cocktail and sake refreshments for its patrons.

Much like some of the culinary items on the menu, internally, Sakura explores a tension between precision and rawness. End grain timber tables and benches offer a tactile warmth in contrast to the deep khaki render, vermiculite and Japanese ceramic tiles. Upholstered bench and banquette seating is roughly hewn to accompany other seemingly unfinished elements, such as the pebbled granite, and the raw bluestone block footings sourced from a Melbourne quarry that ornament the compact cocktail bar.

Bergman & Co. navigates the complications of designing for hospitality with ease to allow patrons a diverse level of experiential value across a variety of areas and atmospheres. Each space is distinctly its own, with thoughtful visitor engagements along the way. The result of cross-disciplinary collaboration, the design presents an innovative example of Sakura’s refined identity as a restaurant and brand.