Cultural Canopy

August, 2011


Nature becomes an architectural muse in Koichi Takada's interpretation of Japanese cultural concepts in his design for the Sushi Train Sutherland Restaurant in Sydney.

A timber tree rises from the centre of the restaurant, its branches spreading out to the restaurant's perimeter. With a design element as unusual as this, the concept of interiors takes on a whole new meaning at the Sushi Train Sutherland restaurant in Sydney, Australia - popularly known as the Tree Restaurant.


The idea of putting a wooden louvred tree bang in the middle of the restaurant was borrowed from the traditional Japanese festival Hanami - a festival that celebrates the annual blossoming of cherry trees. The restaurant's designer Principal Architect Koichi Takada, Koichi Takada Architects explains, "Dining under the cherry blossom trees is a social gathering that celebrates the arrival of spring in Japan. This design concept not only represents the Japanese cuisine that is served in this restaurant but it also hopes to capture a symbolic place for the locals to gather and dine under 'one tree', and for the owner to nurture the business as if growing a tree."


The timber profiles recreate the comfort and tranquility offered by the canopy of a tree, producing an illusion that the diners are seated beneath a real 'tree'. Meals are prepared behind a sushi train and bar running around the base of the tree, so that staff and guests alike share the celebratory space. With this concept and the simple curves it favours, Takada attempts to dissimulate architecture to the point of erasure.


Spotlights hidden in the canopy of timber dapple the wooden surface. Flickering and twinkling, the spotlights recreate the effect of sunlight sparkling through the leaves. The ever-changing flares of light mimic the irregularity of natural sunlight even as they highlight the path of the Sushi Train.


The louvred tree structure that spreads out over the restaurant is made up of a series of thin timber profiles that have been cut using CNC technology, minimising waste and allowing accuracy and detail in the design. The Gaboon Marine plywood used to produce the tree brings the warmth of timber into the interior, which compliments the texture of the rendered walls. The contrast of these elements highlights the central tree and the sushi train below.

Takada's minimal design moves away from emphasising the bifurcating structure of tree branches. Yet, even in this minimalism, the sensory experience of dining in the midst of nature remains undiminished, a testimony to Takada's designing prowess.

Total Area: 198 sq m

Materials used:

Wall light: Z Two uplights, 2711 wall mounted up light
'Tree' ceiling: Gaboon Marine 18 mm fire retardant plywood
Floor: Dark grey ceramic tiles 
Countertop: Tasmanian oak with Japanese black stain
Sushi Train conveyor: Polished stainless steel
Dappled light effect: Mix of LED and halogen lighting concealed between the timber 'tree' branches.

Photos: Sharrin Rees

Contact: Koichi Takada Architects Pty Ltd, Suite 5.1, 2 Hill Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010, Australia. Website:

Design Team: Koichi Takada, Sun Mi Kang, Marcellino Sain, Camille Lincoln, Lukas Mersch