Tucked away in the busy commercial basement of Shanghai’s Kerry Center, Ethai Café offers a fresh take on traditional Thai cuisine, focusing on simple light dishes created from healthy ingredients.

Client: Shanghai Ethai Restaurant Ltd
Location: Jing’an Kerry Centre, 150 Nanjing West Road, Shanghai (China)
Built area: 105 sqm
Completion (date):  June 2021

Design Credits:
Space Design: Q&A – Quarta & Armando Architecture Design Research (www.qaadr.com, IG: @quarta_armando)
Design Team: Gianmaria Quarta, Michele Armando, Tang Shiyuan, Carlin Sun

Architecture Photographer: Dirk Weiblen (http://dirkweiblen.com/)


  • KOTAN Chair by Naoto Fukasawa for Conde House
  • Rammed Earth and Artistic Painting by Nidu 泥度
  • Tiles by Changying 长盈
  • Lighting by nVc 雷士照明
6499-Ethai Café by Q&A - Quarta & Armando Architecture Design Research - Sheet2
©Dirk Weiblen

The earthy color and material palette is based on gradients reminiscent of central Thailand’s archaeological sites and lands, and its nooks and sitting areas appear to have been carved out of the rammed earth that envelops the façade.

Given the secluded and constrained nature of the site, we imagined a space that could provide a peaceful and transient retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life.  In order to achieve this, the project follows the directional concept of an enveloping geometry. Consequently, the facade is willingly designed give a slight cut to the space from the public area, through a lowered ceiling and a low wall, unfolding like a ribbon from within the restaurant and draping the exterior. An opening of the low wall, which reveals a banquette on the inside, creates an inviting entrance, naturally guiding customers into the space. These volumes are slightly offset from the site boundaries, enforcing this feeling of “space within space”.

6499-Ethai Café by Q&A - Quarta & Armando Architecture Design Research - Sheet3
©Dirk Weiblen

The layout gives customers a certain level of privacy, while still feeling somewhat connected to the rest of the public space. Overlooking the customers stands a dome-shaped ceiling, formed by a grid of wooden beams, in which conceals the space’s lighting. This structure defines a vaulted space that feels private yet convivial, like a contemporary interpretation of the primordial hut.

©Dirk Weiblen

The material selection further enhances this idea of quiet sobriety by deploying a palette rich in earthy tones and alternating rough and smooth textures. Welcomed by the rammed earth gradient at the entrance, the customer then notes with interest the coarse terrazzo flooring that guides them into the space. Lifting further their eye-level, they will discover a rich texture on the vertical surfaces, covered by white arched tiles. Simultaneously, the environment feels natural from the wooden surfaces on the furniture and the grid ceiling, as well as the vegetation. Finally, pieces of artwork constitute different focal points of the restaurant, bringing a traditional Thai touch and finalizing the integrality of Ethai Café.

Quarta & Armando Architecture Design Research

Gianmaria Quarta and Michele Armando first met as architecture students in Turin in 2005. Before rejoining in Shanghai and founding their own interior and architecture practice Quarta & Armando, they accumulated an array of experiences studying, working and living across seven countries and nine cities.

Since its establishment in 2016, Q&A has distinguished itself for taking playfulness in a very serious way. Their current portfolio showcases an eclectic palette of references which spans from Mediterranean traditional architecture to the informal streetscapes of South-America, from quirky post-colonial decadence to brutalist rigor, deploying a daring use of color and materials and creative technical solutions to build ever-changing narratives.

Strategically located in Shanghai and Turin, Q&A draws inspiration from being in the crossing center between different cultures and ideas while rooting its approach in the attention for materials and details. On 2020 Quarta & Armando has been awarded from AD Magazine as one of the most talented young firms in China.

Gianmaria Quarta holds a Master in Architecture and Urban Design from Polytechnic of Milan, a Bachelor in Architecture and Civil Engineering from Polytechnic of Turin and has studied in ENSA Paris-La Villette in France and TU Delft in the Netherlands. Before founding Quarta & Armando in Shanghai in 2016 Gianmaria Quarta worked in Shanghai, Berlin and Milan on mixed-use architecture, urban, landscape projects and university tutoring.

Michele Armando holds a degree in Architecture and Urban Design from Polytechnic of Turin and studied at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya – Barcelona.

Before establishing Quarta & Armando in Shanghai, he has worked in Turin with MARC, Tokyo with Sou Fujimoto, Venice and Sicily with NOWA mostly on architecture, interior and landscape design projects and university tutoring.


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