GRO Architects, pllc: richard GARBER + nicole ROBERTSON [principals], justin FOSTER
suckerPUNCH: describe your project.
richard GARBER + nicole ROBERTSON: Located in downtown Princeton a block from the university, MoC MoC Japanese Cuisine occupies 2,400sf of our building renovation project at 14 South Tulane Street. The design for the restaurant is conceived around an interest in expanding the dining space, both literally and experientially. We imagined a system of wood slats that form a ceiling infrastructure throughout the dining floor, operating at multiple scales in the space.
At its largest scale, this curvilinear system of mahogany wood slats is used to organize the main dining area into a series of unique alcoves formed as the ceiling slats curve down to create screen partitions. The dining areas are designed to accommodate larger groups as tables are pushed together, or intimate meals as retractable fabric screens are pulled from tracks between the ceiling slats. As partitions, the slats allow for a screened view between dining spaces, and along the length of the perimeter walls diners see through the slats to a reflective surface that suggests a space beyond, enlarging their experience. The wood slats spatialize and foreground the infrastructural elements essential to the operations of the restaurant; the slat infrastructure houses retractable privacy screens, conceals linear LED lights that glow along the length of the slats in the evening, organizes speakers and sprinkler heads, and functions as a diffuser for fresh air. The project was developed parametrically to allow for variations in the geometry as we developed the dining program, and allowed for seamless output via a milling machine.
sP: what or who influenced this project?
rG + nR: Tumbleweeds. We have been influenced by the sort of picturesque aspect highways – their layered and stranded geometries, the resultant spaces created by their overlap, and the flows along them – scenes omnipresent on the outskirts of cities. On a much smaller scale, we were intrigued by Thakoons’s crepe shibari (ribbon) dress that was everywhere in 2009. While the restaurant geometry doesn’t have overt intersections between ribbons, the idea that volume or space could be described by a series of strips was inspiring. For the owners, the functional aspects of organizing systemic (structure, MEP, sprinkler, and program spaces) elements within the restaurant based on operation took precedent so we used those requirements to generate the layered and stranded form of what we call “the armature”. The idea of continuity and the kind of technical precision required of a sushi chef is enforced by racing stripes – the white slats – that are included in each of the seven layers of the armature.
sP: what were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
rG + nR: We were actually eating Mexican food. Mario Carpo’s writing, especially “The Bubble and the Blob” has recently had implications for our work. The idea that digital technologies have imposed a sort of cultural crisis on the author-architect is something we think is worth considering.
sP: whose work is currently on your radar?
rG + nR: Filippo Brunelleschi, John Ruskin, Mario Carpo and Dave Hickey.
Client: Jenny + Michael Chang, Owners
Architect: GRO Architects: Nicole Robertson + Richard Garber, Principals; Justin Foster, Gene Dassing (CNC fabrication)
Kitchen Designer: Victor Cardamone, MISE Design Group
MEP Engineer: Jose Mantrana, ARCO Engineering
Video and Sound: Video Technologies, Inc.
General Contractor: Walter Puchajda, Octagon Construction
Photography: Fabian Birgfeld, photoTECTONICS
Square Footage: 2400sf
Project value: $250,000
Dates: Design Start May 2009; Construction Completion March 2010