Other well-known efficiencies play this out in more interesting, albeit still expected, ways: structural efficiency seeks to maximize stability with minimal material obligation; spatial efficiency seeks to maximize utility with a minimal amount of square footage, and so on.
However, what if the efficiencies were more constructive or elective? These unexpected pairings could set in motion a process which would be at once inevitable relative to the logics at hand, but no longer driven by singular pragmatic or rational outcomes.
Catalyzing Constraints in Restaurant Design
Three restaurant projects in New York City demonstrate an attempt to exploit constraints through intensified efficiencies. In all of these instances, the site consisted of a predetermined space within an existing building — an envelope with defined planimetric and dimensional limits.
Due to the restrictions of these spaces, the plan — territory that usually provides the most fertile ground for architectural operation — was largely predetermined by the imperative to maximize seating and accommodate adequate circulation and service space. The obligation to provide a spatially efficient plan meant that the focus of design invention was shifted to the surfaces of the walls and ceilings, requiring these often under-considered elements to take on a greater architectural vitality.
Instead of simply applying materials to the existing envelope, each of these projects involves the insertion of a new volume, calibrated to the performative requirements of the program, within the first. By treating this liminal zone as a thickened, composite membrane, these projects became the testing grounds for the reinvention of the architectural surface.
In these cases the strict adherence to planimetric efficiency compels an intensified investigation into maximizing the possibilities — material and programmatic — of the interior skin of each space.
Ini Ani Coffee Shop
The design for this project was generated in response to the low budget ($40,000), site limitations (350 square feet, or 33 square meters), and tight time frame (three months for design and construction).
Furthermore, this pragmatic design process thoroughly intersected the fabrication process. When no suitable stock item was available within the client's budget, LTL designed and fabricated furniture to match the section of the built-in banquette and to make use of the same steel and wood employed in other aspects of the space.
Originally a fortune-teller's apartment and shop, the space was reconfigured by LTL as a room within a room, allowing both take-out traffic and a subdued lounge environment to coexist within the small footprint. Treating the disposable take-out coffee cup as a point of departure for material exploration, LTL constructed the interior box out of strips of corrugated cardboard compressed in a structural steel cage, and cast a wall of plaster coffee-cup lids as a sculptural feature at the entry.
This project presented the unusual challenge of designing a 22-seat restaurant in a tiny 420-square-foot (39-square-meter) room where the ceiling is higher than the space is wide. In order to counter the potentially claustrophobic dimensions of this space, LTL decided to make the ceiling the dominant feature of the project.
Playing off the name "Tides," the ceiling was designed to create a topographical effect that evokes an inverted field of sea grass. This effect was achieved by aggregating bamboo skewers in carefully calculated patterns to form a dense intricate ceiling seascape.
Various other types of bamboo are used throughout the space; caramelized bamboo flooring folds up to become the booth seats and banquette backs, and a lighter shade of bamboo flooring covers the upper half of the banquette wall. Individual planks pull away from the wall, revealing lights.
The bottom half of each table is translucent acrylic, which pipes the light of a candle encased in the bamboo plywood top to the edge of the table. The table magnifies the candle light, intensifying the most flattering form of restaurant lighting.
LTL's design for this 220-square-foot (20-square-meter) hot-dog stand paradoxically makes the small space smaller in order to produce the illusion of a larger space. The ceiling slopes down two feet (0.6 meters), while the floor slopes up six inches (15 centimeters) from the sidewalk storefront entry, thereby creating a forced perspective. The sloping surfaces of the steel wrapper converge at the sales counter to imply depth and continuity within a space that is only twice as long as it is wide.
The project formalizes the literal sequence of take-out, leading the customer from the sidewalk to the grill, the cash register, eating counter, and back to the sidewalk. The division between coming in and going out becomes an architectural feature; embedded lights lodged in the gaps between the steel wrapper form a dotted line along the axis.
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Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis is an architecture partnership established in New York City in 1997 by Marc Tsurumaki and twin brothers Paul Lewis and David J. Lewis. Paul Lewis is an assistant professor at Princeton University. Marc Tsurumaki is adjunct professor at Columbia University. David J. Lewis is associate professor at Parsons The New School for Design.
This article is excerpted from Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis: Opportunistic Architecture by Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis, copyright © 2008, with permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press.
Ini Ani Coffee Shop, New York, New York
Client: Kevin Mancini and Payam Yazdani
Project team: Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, David J. Lewis, James Bennett, Lucas Cascardo, Alex Terzich
Contractor: J.Z. Interior Renovations
Photographer: Michael Moran
Tides Restaurant, New York, New York
Client: Steven Yee and Allen Leung
Project team: Paul Lewis; Marc Tsurumaki; David J. Lewis; Lucas Cascardo, project architect; Matthew Roman; Beatie Blakemore; Jeanie Lee
Contractor: Mao Nan Construction
Photographer: Michael Moran
Dash Dogs Restaurant, New York, New York
Client: Steven Yee, Allen Leung, and Dan Sook
Project team: Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, David J. Lewis, Alan Smart, Katherine Hearey, Adam Frampton, John Morrison, Chris Dierks, Tal Schori, David Snyder, Santiago RIvera Robles-Martinez, Monica Suberville, John Bassett, Erik Gerlach
Photographer: Michael Moran