The prospect of redesigning one of New York's legendary restaurants in one of the world's most distinguished buildings was as inviting as it was daunting. The architecture of the new restaurant respectfully challenges many of the tenets of modernism.
The surfaces of the original space have been relined with wood, terrazzo, tile, and glass. These thin "liners" lift from their surfaces to become structural, spatial and functional components. The madrone floor peels up while the pearwood ceiling peels down and is molded into a continuous seating wrapper around the dining space.
The restaurant, lodged in the stone base of the Seagram Building, is without glass or view, prompting contemplation about glass and vision. At the entry, a glass surrogate straddles the stone wall: a live video camera outside and a monitor inside provide an electronic transparency to the street.
Entrance from the street is transformed into the ritual of "making an entrance." Initially, a sensor in the entry door triggers a video snapshot that is added to a display over the bar, announcing every new patron. Beyond, the descent into the dining room (several feet below street level), is theatricalized: a glass stair of gradual proportions prolongs the descent of each patron and puts him or her on display as they enter.