Designer: NERI & HU DESIGN AND RESEARCH OFFICE|
Punch! designed by Neri&Hu is the first bar in Shanghai to serve punch as its feature drink. The word “punch” originates from Sanskrit word panch, meaning “five,” since the drink was originally made with just five ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, and tea or spices. Neri&Hu's design for its spaces takes inspiration from the social quality of the bar’s namesake, but interprets it twofold, reminding guests of the drink’s multiple origins, harkening simultaneously to both low-brow and high-brow cultural references. Crossing the threshold of a collaged gate of metal, wood and glass, one enters into a narrow passage. This entry corridor is envisioned as an alleyway, not unlike those that define Shanghai’s old urban fabric—an exhilarated blurring of public and private spaces and an intersection of communal and domestic activities. In Punch! the alley defines not only the access but also the separation between these two contrasting aspects: the grand hall on the left is an open and sumptuously draped enclosure featuring the main bar, while the series of alley rooms on the right are mysterious and strangely intimate pockets of space for smaller gatherings. Timber framing mimics the construction of traditional houses, while decorative elements—custom designed wallpaper, framed graphics, and found objects—contribute to sense of nostalgia and humble domesticity. Contrasted with the darker, more intimate spaces of the alley, the public hall on the opposite side celebrates punch-drinking as a glamorous and sophisticated affair. The space is framed by delicate brass metal structures and draped copper mesh, creating a permeable sense of enclosure, while forming the main apparatus for attaching a variety of embellishments—green glass pendant lights on pulleys, shelving for bottles and display, hooks for glassware. These along with the leather wrapped banquettes and wide oak floorboards add to the overall sense of warmth and charm. Strategically placed mirrors, glass and reflective surfaces build intrigue and theatricality, allowing unexpected views and moments of surprise and delight. Intricate yet playful, Punch! embraces the whimsical nature of its feature drink.
Photo credits: Dirk Weiblen