January 7, 2021

Hou de Sousa Creates a Whimsical Chinese Restaurant in Quito, Ecuador

Hou de Sousa demolished previous walls to open up the restaurant and insert islands to direct the flow of foot traffic. Photography by Bicubik. 

What do you get when you mix a Chinese restaurant with urban Ecuadorian surroundings and American-style dining? The answer is Happy Panda, a bright and colorful restaurant in Quito’s picturesque Cumbayá neighborhood. Having worked with the client from their days in the Ecuadorian capital, the duo behind Hou de Sousa architecture and design studio, founders Nancy Hou and Josh de Sousa, translated the joy of eating into the space.

For seating, the designers opted for expansive booths to maximize use of the space. Photography by Bicubik. 

As Hou explains, “fried rice is now everywhere in Ecuador,” essentially a part of their national cuisine. Working with a subdued palette of materials that allude to the traditions of Chinese and Ecuadorian design, a plywood wallcovering with cutouts in the shape of grains of rice cover the walls. Additionally, the focal point of the restaurant, a series of suspended colorful lanterns made from metal and paracord, is another example of what Hou calls “a jumbo ephemeral interpretation,” of Chinese culture.

The dynamic lanterns invite invite diners to gaze upward, adding pops of color to the otherwise neutral palette throughout.  Photography by Bicubik. 

The starting point for Hou and de Sousa’s design, however, were the transparent chairs and wooden tables, which the client wanted to repurpose from other restaurants. Facing an exterior courtyard within a shopping center, Hou and de Sousa play with the indirect light that reflects off the glass to color the space. UV lights are incorporated into the hanging lanterns making the colors truly stand out, giving the fixtures what de Sousa describes as “a digital appearance.” Hou continues, “we were aiming to do something bright and airy, and at the same time have it have warmth and comfort.” 

Paracord—also used in parachutes—is a material that feels lightweight but can sustain heavy loads. Photography by Bicubik. 
Alcoves in the angular center block offer even more seating. Photography by Bicubik. 
Like the plywood used for the wallcovering installation, the corrugated metal used on the islands also is locally sourced. Photography by Bicubik. 

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