Today, Milan Design Agenda, in partnership with CovetED, will present you with a stunning hospitality project in Milan that combines the most refined elements of the design of the East and the West! The master behind this project is Maurizio Lai, that designed a restaurant where Japan finds an original, nonconventional interpretation, between noble materials, light cuts, and bespoke design.
There is a contemporary idea of Japan in the project that the Italian architect Maurizio
Lai has developed for IYO Aalto, the second restaurant of the group after IYO Taste. Subtle
references to tradition give way to a contemporary and pure design language, conceiving
a place where essential materials and light merge into a different narrative.
Maurizio Lai evokes the suggestions of the Rising Sun through a decisive sensibility, far
from prevailing stereotypes and clichés. IYO Aalto appears like a preciously balanced
stratification of details, characterized by the discreet and constant presence of design
elements that enrich and define the personality of each environment and surface.
Furniture is made exclusively on design in collaboration with Poliform Contract: a
a vibrant example of the peculiar relationship between architects and Italian brands; a
collaboration able to give shape to ideas, turning them into unique products thanks to
bespoke process and artisanal know-how.
Maurizio Lai defines a restaurant where the founding values of IYO are transferred to space. IYO Aalto offers a dual experience, in environments designed right down to
the smallest detail: Tokyo’s Edomae sushi culture, in a traditional “Sushi Banco”, and a
boundless and contemporary cuisine in the elegant “Gourmet Restaurant”.
The space of 320 square meters embraces the spacious open kitchen, the wine cellar,
the exclusive “Sushi Banco” (an intimate room dedicated to Edomae sushi tradition) and
the “Gourmet Restaurant”. Natural materials – walnut, porphyry, brass, leather – are
combined with sophisticated and more technological elements.
The entrance introduces a timeless and dreamlike dimension: a compass with float glass
plates and smoked mirrors expands the space, in a game of transparency and infinite
reflections. On the inside, guests are welcomed by a light installation and a desk, made
of flamed gray-green porphyry and brass, which introduces a dialogue between form and
material that will continue throughout the restaurant.
IYO Aalto is defined by the discreet and constant presence of signs that distinguish all
surfaces: small brass inlays drowned in the wooden slats of the floors; swallow-tails – also
in brass – that recall the culture of high carpentry, up to the furniture screws. Canaletto walnut and porphyry are the dominant materials in all spaces. The walls, never continuous, define and delimit spaces without ever completely isolating them: like the imposing central partition in slabs of split porphyry, flanked by brushed surfaces and void parts. Furniture and fittings, entirely custom-made, are produced in collaboration with Poliform Contract.
The Sushi Banco – An intimate room proposes for 8 guests the Japanese edomae sushi: a set of rituals that has its roots in the Bunsei era (1818-1830), where the nigiri are prepared in front of the guest. The entrance wall is made with Brise Soleil in Canaletto walnut and allows a glimpse of both the internal environment and the lofty window. The counter is in Canaletto walnut, with worktop and plates in smooth gray-green porphyry, characterized by thin brass inlays. The leather seats, with a black elm structure and a leather-coloured custom-made cladding, also used for the upholstered furniture in the main dining, are produced by Poliform Contract. The Italian brand was in charge of the realization of the whole custom-made furnishing, joinery, glassware and stone works. Between the Sushi Banco and the Gourmet Restaurant, a modular glass shelving holding ancient Sake barrels contributes handsomely to the permeability of the spaces.
The Gourmet Restaurant – The extraordinary heritage of Japanese cuisine is filtered by contemporary knowledge tooffer an authentic and ambitious experience, in a room designed to accommodate a maximum of 38 seats. The Canaletto walnut covers all the surfaces of the space, and the ceiling is embellished with lacunar sheets of float glass: a touch of lightness to rediscover the classic codes of coffered ceilings reinterpreted by Maurizio Lai according to a contemporary aesthetic.The lighting of the tables is entrusted to spotlights that return the light where it is needed without altering the overall lighting of the room. Three wooden wall cabinets mark the space; custom-designed, they represent some of the recurring details of the project: brass screws, wood, leather, glass. As if suspended, they are surrounded by a perimeter escape that becomes a design element, an interpretation of Japanese poetry that considers emptiness as adding to the perfect balance. Matter and surfaces come together without ever touching, in a game of poetic absences.
Cleanliness and formal precision define a language that refers to Japanese tradition without flaunting or reproducing stylistic features. The wooden tables have brass swallow-tail inlays and, in the center, a gray-green porphyry swivel plate. On the walls, there are movable sliding walls in Canaletto walnut, which act as Brise Soleil and allow external light to be filtered according to the time and needs.
The wine cellar – The wall-mounted wine cellar is one of the largest ever made: 3.5 m x 10 m, with six different temperature zones, to accommodate up to 1600 bottles. Consisting of a polished stainless core, it has reflective smoked glass doors (also used for ceiling cladding) and interior lighting.
The kitchen – The kitchen, at the forefront of technology and the beating heart of the restaurant, was conceived with the same principles of excellence of the rooms. Enclosed in a glass case, it is designed in every detail, with an important custom module that dominates the spaces. The transparency of the rooms makes them permeable to the eye not only from the inside but also from Piazza Alvar Aalto, consolidating the relationship between the restaurant and the city.vAll doors are automatic, with photocell opening to allow chefs and staff to move freely in complete safety.
The restrooms – In the restrooms, luminous vertical and horizontal lines play with dark vertical surfaces, mirrored at full height, alternating with sheets of black-lacquered glass and round mirrors with LED backlights. Polished floors and ceilings made with recycled glass grit slabs get reflected, thus multiplying the space, causing an unexpected effect and adding a level of experience to the project.