Pete ShingView bio
Originally published in Nov 2023's darc magazine edition.
Hong Kong-based M.R. Studio collaborated with Cundall to create a Chinese French-inspired dining experience for The Kitin restaurant located in Hong Kong’s tallest skyscraper. darc chats with both to discover more about their approach to the lighting design.
The Kitin is a luxurious Chinese restaurant located within the International Commerce Centre (ICC), the tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong. M.R. Studio was brought on to the project by the client, who’s brief was to create a dining experience that had a contemporary oriental atmosphere yet blended with western elements. The overarching concept for the restaurant was Chinese French fusion.
Cundall was responsible for implementing the lighting scheme in the restaurant. darc spoke with Pete Shing Lighting Design Principal at the firm, along with M.R. Studio’s founder Myron Kwan to find out more about their approaches to bringing the interior scheme to life through the lighting.
“I have developed a strong relationship with the founder of M.R Studio, Myron Kwan through collaborating on several hospitality projects in recent years,” reflects Shing. “He mentioned an opportunity to work on the lighting for a high-end, fine dining restaurant in the ICC, Hong Kong’s tallest building. For us, this was a chance to showcase our creativity in decorative lighting design for a restaurant in a magnificent skyscraper. Having worked with Myron previously, there was a level of trust and confidence in our lighting expertise that he and the client had in us. Therefore, we were given enormous latitude to express our creativity in meeting the client’s desire that the outcome be ‘Instagram-worthy’. Of course, there are many ways to interpret this, so our emphasis was on utilising decorative lighting in a unique manner and exploring unconventional approaches to ensuring the aesthetic experience would also deliver on practical necessities. We commenced design work in July 2022 and the project was completed within six months.”
As with any project, the team faced a handful of challenges when developing their schemes for the dining space. Notably for Kwan it was budget constraints, which impacted material choices and forced strategical decisions to work around existing structures.
Shing adds: “One of the key challenges that arose in this project was around the lighting control system. The client wished to re-use the lighting control system from their previous restaurant (which is now closed) as they found that system worked particularly well. More importantly, re-using the previous lighting control system reduced waste. We needed to carefully ensure every new luminaire we specified was compatible with the legacy lighting control system. This meant we had to gain a thorough understanding of it and allocate considerable time investigating which luminaires would be suitable.
“Another challenge arose from resolving interaction between the lights around the chandelier in the private dining hall and the feature light itself. The supplementary lights were trimless dim lights, which look much nicer, but are generally more difficult to install. To achieve the desired sleek effect, the ceilings are ideally painted with the same colour as the fixtures that the luminaires were attached to. Furthermore, the ceiling must be designed and completed with incredible precision to ensure the lights do not protrude or become skewed in the process of installing them. This required considerable collaboration also with the contractor who painted the ceilings and, as a result, we ultimately achieved the desired sleek finish.”
For Cundall, the brief and vision for the lighting design remained the same throughout the project. The aim to create an “aesthetic dining venue with a premium look and feel” was achievable. “The client envisioned the space as an integral part of the dining experience. Similarly, with the lighting design, we wanted to take people on a journey – from the entry corridor to the main dining area and the private dining room. To create this journey, we had to consider what elements in the space required subtlety, and which would be highlighted. Ultimately, the lighting design aims to work in unison with the interiors to complement them,” says Shing.
On the other hand, Kwan’s design had to be a little more adaptable because of a Feng Shui master who recommended changes to the layout. “This impacted the overall design by ensuring a harmonious flow and energy throughout the space,” says Kwan.
Decorative lighting was key to achieving Kitin’s luxurious design. “The client specifically requested unique and visually captivating lighting designs. For us, it was crucial to create bespoke lighting fixtures that became focal points within each area of the restaurant. This helped to compensate for the simplicity of the wall and floor finishes,” says Kwan. Shing adds: “The focus is often on ensuring the lamp source brightness is appropriate for the design intent. However, since the decorative lighting in Kitin played a significantly important role within the space, alongside lamp source brightness, we also carefully considered the light orientation, where the light was installed and the mounting height. Our team also used layering of light in this project to create a specific mood and ambience in the restaurant. This added depth in the design and enhances the overall sensory experience of the restaurant for diners. A lot of designers shy away from light layering as it is extremely nuanced and requires considerable thought, care, and precision to achieve successfully. The outcome at Kitin shows this effort was entirely worthwhile.
“The client was inspired in part by their own memories of an opulent hospitality experience that left a lasting impression. This sense of the luxurious lifestyle and unique ambience infused the whole approach for Kitin as they wanted it to have a similar feel. We then had to devise the best way to integrate those key decorative lighting features throughout the restaurant, as it is not sufficient to simply place decorative lighting in areas with little consideration. For example, the chandelier in the main dining room is positioned in that specific ceiling space to ensure there is no light that spills over – achieving a sublime lighting aesthetic for the space.”
All the decorative fixtures were supplied by Ricardo Lighting, while architectural pieces were specified from Vis Lighting, Effect Meji Corp., and controls from Lutron. “The bespoke decorative lighting elements were all inspired by traditional Chinese lantern designs,” explains Kwan. “We primarily utilised bronze materials paired with wavy glass to achieve a simple yet luxurious effect.
“Given the ceiling height limitations, we strategically placed the decorative lighting elements in the highest part of the ceiling to maximise their impact and create a stunning visual effect.
“The decorative lighting elements act as the primary focus, while the architectural lighting supports and enhances the overall mood of the space. The architectural lighting is designed to highlight the tables and create a backdrop that allows the decorative lighting to shine.
“The lighting design brings different atmospheres and settings to the space throughout the day. It transitions from a tea drinking mode during daylight hours (12am to 3pm) to a dinner mode from 6pm to 9pm, and finally a lounge mode from 9pm to 12am. The lighting plays a crucial role in establishing these varying moods and enhances the overall interior design concept.”
Shing continues: “Considering the overall interior is incredibly richly detailed, we tried to minimise any intrusiveness of architectural lighting whilst ensuring the light will create emphasis on elements within the interiors which should be highlighted. Alongside this, illumination levels needed to be strong enough to make the whole space visible. This is another instance where layering of light worked well – as opposed to using strong and bright lights, we deployed multiple, more subtle decorative lights.
“Another special feature of the project was our consideration of spatial lighting, which is not a standard approach. This is a way of considering light and how it can be strategically designed to draw the occupant’s eye to specific features while subtly backgrounding elements of the space, which are less aesthetically strong. This approach helped the restaurant achieve the ambience and aesthetic the client was after.”
The finished project was deemed an all-round success by both parties involved. “Overall, we are extremely satisfied with the final design and how it aligns with our initial plan and ideas,” reflects Kwan. “The positive feedback from both guests and the client confirms that our focus on simplicity and comfort, while highlighting the stunning view, was successful in creating an exceptional dining experience.
“I would like to highlight my favourite aspect of the restaurant, which is the stunning main entrance designed with inspiration from Chinese stone bridges. Imagine guests passing through a tunnel-like bridge to enter the restaurant creates a unique and memorable experience. The strategic placement of wall sconces throughout the entrance illuminates the entire interior, resulting in an aesthetically pleasing and Instagram-worthy area that captivates visitors.”
Shing adds: “This was a smooth project to work on mainly due to high levels of collaboration and effective communication with the client and the interior designers. The level of trust endowed in us as lighting designers meant this was very much a “get on board and start working on it” kind of project.
“What the client was aiming for was also very different given it was a high-end restaurant. Working with workplace clients there is more of a focus on functionality in lighting whereas, here, decorative lighting was at the heart of the project. I think the client appreciated that we focused on making the lighting in the space deliver a seamless integration between aesthetics and pragmatic considerations, as opposed to just finding the best-looking lights to install.
“While Kitin has already been a great opportunity to express our creativity, I do believe there was further scope to think outside the box and be more daring in our design. When we were given expansive leeway in design decisions, it opens up so much possibility for unique ideas that elevate the role of lighting to its full creative potential for enhancing both interior spaces and the experiences of those who spend time in them.
“When I saw the project completed, I was incredibly satisfied with what we had achieved as lighting designers. The decorative lighting integrates itself into the interiors incredibly well while also complimenting the space’s interior design. Another thing that stood out in the entire design experience was the collaboration with M.R. Studio, something which played a key role in delivering this project successfully,” he concludes.
Check out our lighting services page below to learn more about the service.