Charlie Hearn


On the Cutting Edge of Sustainable Design

If you have ever wondered about the creative force behind Merah Putih’s captivating design concept, allow us to introduce you to Charlie Hearn, a forward thinking architect whose Bali-based Inspiral Architecture and Design Studios is upgrading the way we experience dining on the Island of the Gods.

What inspired you to become an architect?

From an early age I always had a very strong urge to be creative.  This was released in many ways, but I found as I got older it became fused into other applications, which on the surface seemed unrelated to the arts, such as maths, science and philosophy. However, I loved problem solving and being experimental, so a natural process became apparent where I could channel all these interests into a profession where inspirations from different aspects of existence were limitless.

What is it about the design process that cultivates passion in your day-to-day life?

It quite often affects my night-to-night life, because when I get absorbed into a design, my sleep dramatically reduces! When designing you can get easily overcome by a very energetic sense of serenity. This works as a fuel to keep me going and pursuing answers from all sorts of aspects in everyday life.

How would you describe your design philosophy and how is this reflected in your projects?

For me, the driving force behind designing is a major concern for the well being of the occupant and to the wider context the building is set in. This not only means ease of movement, comfort and efficient usage, but how a person’s spirit can be lifted by their immediate environment. Feelings of joy, wonderment and inspiration, helps to achieve this holistic effect. We often get these feelings when designing, so we like to think this translates through into the finished project.

How did you get involved in designing restaurants, particularly your first project Merah Putih in Seminyak?

We came well recommended by another of our clients, whom we had designed a resort for, which had a highly conceptual eatery. We hit it off with the Merah Putih owners immediately by a shared desire to create something special.

What inspired the initial concept for the interior design of Merah Putih?

The concept came from wanting to create a world within a world. The boundaries between inside and outside are quite defined with a ceremonial approach and snippets of what awaits inside. As one enters, the idea was to distort the layers and scale of the space so that once within you were presented with an unusual but uplifting experience that almost hints towards an ethereal realm.

Was there an “aha” moment when you figured out how to conceptualise the fabric rain catchers?

It was exciting when the idea started taking shape, since it managed to encapsulate a range of different functions from water collection, to lighting, to defining the space to providing a roof and ceiling. I was most happy that it has managed to highlight Bali’s fresh water shortage problem in a poetic manner.

How can design help to make or break a new restaurant’s chance for success?

In the whole process of an evening out, there is a need to capture some kind of experience. People like to have their senses stimulated and creating a space where this happens is hugely important. It also creates an identity for the establishment and if you can make it into some kind of icon, the place will always remain in the psyche. However, ultimately the food and service needs to be excellent, and fortunately at Merah Putih, they have really nailed it.

Can you give us the inside scoop on new restaurant projects that you are currently working on?

Under construction right now is a 5-star resort in Lombok, which will feature two stylish restaurants we are very excited about. There is also an ocean club in Nusa Lembongan with really dynamic design features plus a funky restaurant on a gorgeous riverside in Sanur.

Are there any design trends in particular that you are seeing in the restaurant design industry?

I think at the higher end restaurateurs are recognising the need to go that extra yard to creating a dramatic venue. We try to avoid trends as such because I feel it’s much more important to try and do something different.

If you could design your own personal dream restaurant, what is the one feature you couldn’t live without?

I would like to make it completely carbon zero, where the food was cooked on bio gas or bio mass. The electricity used would be generated from alternative energy sources and the materials to build it would come from purely sustainable sources. The cuisine would be totally organic, rich in nutrients and antioxidants. All of this in zero gravity!