In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Michael Hsu and his team brought to life an extension of the lauded Austin-based Japanese restaurant, Uchi, in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood. Uchi Miami, which opened late last year, reflects the attention to detail characteristic of Japanese design and craft traditions, from artful sushi rolls to layers of carefully selected wood. "We looked at Japanese wrapping techniques—how gifts and even vegetables and fruits [are wrapped]," says Hsu, noting that the space offers endless moments of discovery. "A lot of architectural inspiration centered around rope and string and tying things together—in doing that we really loved the material paradoxes," he adds. The front entry, for instance, features a custom wall of concrete blocks seemingly held in place by interwoven cotton rope and created by local artist Vas Bets.
Like the surrounding neighborhood, custom artwork adds touches of whimsy throughout the restaurant, from a hand-drawn chalk mural depicting jellyfish above the sushi counter to custom woven lighting fixtures that seem to float above the tables. "We wanted to create a sensorial experience," Hsu continues, pointing out that the team incorporated organic materials and biophilic elements, such as vibrant plants, in the space, which offers a mix of intimate booths and communal seating. As for the lighting, Miami's prolonged sunlight posed a particular challenge for the upscale eatery. For a more subtle effect, Hsu cloaked the glass facade in drapery, creating a mélange of tonal textures and hues that breaks up the natural light while creating an air of mystery, much like a carefully wrapped box tied with string.