The one that never eventuated

A story about original Hotel Hotel collaborators Craig Tan and Naomi Ota.

Craig Tan, shot by Lee Grant.

(1 of 2) Craig Tan, shot by Lee Grant.

Naomi Ota, shot by Lee Grant.

(2 of 2) Naomi Ota, shot by Lee Grant.

There was once the idea for a restaurant at NewActon that never eventuated. But the story is such a nice one that I’m still going to tell it.

What was nice about it? A) It was being designed by Craig Tan who is a really special architect. B) Craig had enlisted textile artist Naomi Ota to co-create the space.

Craig’s idea for the restaurant was to create a sequence of small spaces and experiences that have different qualities so that people can find the one that suits them best. He wanted to give each space richness and depth without being too prescriptive. What he was looking for was a materiality that would give a different acoustic, tactile or visual sense so as to give a different feel to each space.

This is where the idea of using ropes came in. They offer all these things as well as the possibility of playing with light and shadows and really giving each space its own sensibility. And enter Naomi Ota.

Naomi is an installation artist who uses fabrics and fibrous materials to make a range of works from small detailed pieces to large spatially interactive designs.

Unusually, for a textile artist, Naomi is interested in interaction and negative space. She is all about interdisciplinary collaboration working on performance projects with the likes of dancer Tony Yap and musicians Tim Humphrey and Madeline Flynn. She judges her recent works on their capacity to invite other elements such as movement and sound into them. It’s a pretty perfect conceptualisation for a restaurant. It is this thinking that landed her the would be gig. Her technical knowledge of fibre and knots and her beautiful, organic aesthetic also doesn’t hurt.

To really get the sentiment behind Naomi’s works, I think you need to know about the Japanese concepts of “hare” and “ke”. The hare experience (or hare day) is a special day for rituals where everyone is free to celebrate and join in – it’s the extraordinary. Ke is an everyday day, the mundane, where you haul yourself around and things don’t work out. Naomi’s works strive for the hare. She loves the moment in her performance installation work when “something happens” the elements and the audience interact and create a special moment that is different every time.

Amazingly, though they come from different disciplines, cultures and experiences, Naomi and Craig’s take on how to make a space a place for introspection and experience was very similar. Really, they were looking to turn ke into hare – striving to make the extraordinary within an ordinary setting.


Making Hotel Hotel – Stories about the people and ideas that made Hotel Hotel. There were many. It was messy. Good messy.

Date 12 Aug, 2016
People Craig Tan, Naomi Ota
Place Canberra
Category ↳ Architecture
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