By Jose Maria Bustos : Retail Asia

October 1998


Update 2000 : Hu'u Bar has closed






H   U   '   U      K   N   O   W   S        

Concept marketing

Mix innovation and uniqueness together, blend in improvisation, and spice up the concoction with interactivity and free form. So what will you get? Hu'u - a lifestyle bar that screams acid jazz in its design and direction, right down to the marketing collaterals that reverberate "the lush life" jazz buffs are familiar with Jose Maria Bustos reports

During those ever so dramatic days as a young and romantic art student in the West, two ideas were presented to me, which I still hold dear even today: 1. Once your art is exhibited in a museum, your artistic life is over: and 2. Once you leave art school, you spend the first 20 years trying to forget everything you learnt.

The thought behind 1. is the need to stay innovative and vital, even in the face of success, and 2. the need to be unique, where no derivative association can be identified.

Both these concepts are applicable to retail design. A recent entry into the Singapore bar scene has succeeded in its attempts at both innovation and uniqueness. This is quite an accomplishment in a city that has more than its fair share of watering holes. Yet in the face of a softening market, the directors of Hu'u are committed both spiritually and financially to make their vision become a reality.

Hu'u is a lifestyle bar ("not a pub", as owners emphatically said in a recent newspaper report) that focuses on acid jazz. Located at the Singapore Art Museum, Hu'u is designed by Poole Associates. The bar's marketing materials, which further emphasis its lifestyle choice and direction, were designed by The Communication Post, based in Singapore. [now Molotov Creative Consultants]

Together, both teams worked closely to understand the philosophy behind Hu'u, which could be summed up simply as "jazz" in all its forms, with a heavy lean towards acid jazz that shouts: Improvisation! Interactivity! Free Form! The outcome is a sophisticated environment, which is clearly directional in concept.

Which direction you might ask? Try straight ahead, arrogant prats. Emotionally, Hu'u makes you feel like you really are slipping into the heat, or hipness, of the interior scene or out into the cool, or mellowness, of the exterior terrace, which is soon to be covered by custom-designed umbrellas.

Rendering by : Willy Baet

  Poole Associates Private Limited



Andrew Jones, architect, Poole Associates, said: 'Hu'u was planned to integrate the five-foot exterior walkway of the museum with the interior of the bar by creating an island bar open to the exterior walkway. The bar is expressed as a modern element puncturing the solidity of the internal arcade. The bar detailed independently of the building's classical features, indicating to passers-by that a new function is taking place at the site'.

As with acid jazz and the blending of different sounds, Hu'u was developed with the island bar splitting the interior into two zones. The smaller of the two zones functions as a bar-room with standing height aluminum tables and bar stools. The backdrop for this setting is a very large, richly textured stucco wall that is painted to an almost black tone. (The color is extended even to the waiters' uniform).

An eight-foot high cantilevered mirror runs the length of the wall, reflecting the activity below. The textural relationship between the wall and the mirror are indicative of Jones' intent - that 'the development of jazz from its tribal roots in Africa to the modern fusion sounds of acid jazz are subliminally reflected in the combination of materials and textures used throughout the bar'.

This is even more apparent in the lounge area with its ethnic-looking hand-carved woodblock tables juxtaposed to the modern, clean classical lines of the custom-designed armchairs and sofas. These are upholstered in the yummiest of chocolate browns and detailed with polished chrome frames which are partially-exposed. The main focal wall in the lounge area is a 7m x 5m artwork, simply entitled Jazz Piano.

'We took this perfectly good and expensive Baby Grand piano, hoisted it up to a scientifically calculated 50m in the air, counted to three and dropped it on a huge board covered with special epoxy resin. When the piano hit, it splintered, creating a chaotic but natural composition', said Terence Tan, one of the four 20-something directors, describing this work.

My favorite part of the design is the back bar which suspends from the ceiling. This allows the customer to see across the divided space, creating the illusion of one room. The suspended back bar is further enhanced by concealed lighting which reflects off two suspended, dropped acoustic ceiling planes (they actually look like midsections of an aircraft wing). These are padded with gold holographic vinyl that refracts the light into all colors of the spectrum. A series of hand-stitched, parchment pendant lights hang from these units on either side of the bar, delicately illuminating the machined stainless steel bar tops.

The marketing collaterals developed primarily by Martin Christie, graphic designer, The Communication Post, was what initially drew my attention to Hu'u. As an acid jazz buff, I was immediately attracted to the computer enhanced graphics which are similar in effect to acid jazz CD labels. Reverberating the lounge concept, jazz and cocktails or 'the lush life', as it is commonly known amongst jazz enthusiasts, he logically focused on the martini, in particular, the olive. 'It seemed to conjure up images of cool cats in black polo neck sweaters hanging loose in smoky, vodka-drenched, underground Parisian jazz clubs', said The Communication Post creative director Alistair Christie.

The company's choice of olive green, pimento red (toned down to match the green) and black reinforced the colorings chosen by Poole Associates, which were green for the ceiling, and blue which is almost black, for the walls. A full range of collaterals were developed which included signages, drink lists, coasters and uniforms.

The drink list, for example, has a computer-enhanced olive green image of sparkling bubbles, swirling dizzyingly (no pun intended) around, flanked by two narrow bands of black. The simplicity of the olive logo seems inspirational as it is able to reinforce the image and identity of the bar without the actual usage of the name Hu'u.

This helps prevent the over-merchandising of the name on the crockery, toilet signs and even the large glass panels. While branding is the name of the game in retail, subtle solutions can be found for a more delicate approach.

Hu'u's advertising campaign said Alistair, was designed to be provocative and starkly suggestive, Tag-lines such as "Our acid is worth a trip", "May acid reign" and "Our acid is the solution" remain the focus of the campaign. Hu'u is also developing a full-blown photographic campaign which will highlight its affiliation and support from Absolut vodka. This is a marriage made-in-heaven as Absolut is synonymous with globally-respected advertising and artists, and targets the perfect Hu'u lifestyle customer - Absolut-ly Hu'u?

Hu'u signifies the clarity and understanding of lifestyle presentation by many club and pub owners in Singapore, who hire talented and proven design firms and interior consultants to assist them in creating new and compelling designs. These designs are targeted towards lifestyle trends and choices, thus helping to create a sustainable and thriving retail economy.

Project Teams:

Interior Design :

Poole Associates Private Limited :

Andrew Jones, Ed Poole, Rey Tadifa, Wong Kim Mei, Willy Baet

T 65 | 6536 | 3928




The Communication Post Pte Ltd : Ali Christi [now Molotov]

60 Fernhill Rd #03-01 Fernhill Court Singapore 259117



Main Contractor:

Futuristic Furniture Pte Ltd: 24 Woodlands Industrial Park E1 Singapore 757747 Tel: 65.6365.2822 Fax: 65.6365.2855

Other offices in Malaysia, China and Vietnam

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