Bida Manda Laotian Restaurant and Bar
Siblings Vansana and Vanvisa Nolintha approached in situ studio to discuss the design of a new Laotian restaurant in an existing historic storefront in downtown Raleigh. A previous restaurant in the space had failed after a short time, and Van, who has a design background, and Vanvisa were aware of the fact that substantial positive changes to the space would be required to foster success.
Our design collaboration with Van and Vanvisa began with images of work that inspired the two young restaurateurs, a collection of prints featuring Laotian Buddhist monks, and a name, Bida Manda, which means Father and Mother in Sanskrit. Additional descriptions they provided of the spirit of Lao culture and food were a reservoir of inspiration. Common to all these influences was an appreciation of Lao and French culture, a quiet awareness of the beauty of ritual, and an expression of materials in their natural state, with color used only to accent important objects. The space that grew from our collaboration is equal parts museum, sacred space, and dining venue.
The 1,800 SF main dining space is divided into two distinct zones for drinking and dining, with the dining space being further subdivided into three distinct spaces. The result is a surprisingly intimate collection of spaces that function as well full as they do sparsely populated in the wee hours of the night. Important family relics are housed in a display box next to the bar. The prints are featured in a thirty-foot long proscenium in the main dining area The work of local artists, including specifically commissioned textile hangings, are prominently displayed. The main material feature of the space is three tons of locally harvested sticks that wrap the walls of the dining area and shroud the bar. Construction of the space was a broad community effort that relied on the skills of local artists, furniture designers, graphic designers, and nearly seven-hundred and fifty hours of time donated by friends to mount the sticks.