Architecture and food are both best when experienced first-hand, so what better way is there to celebrate the restaurant designs of CCS Architecture than by joining in on an eating tour with the architect himself? On Thursday, as part of the AIASF's Architecture and the City festival, architect Cass Calder Smith led a group of hungry design enthusiasts from Delica RF-1 to La Mar to The Plant: Cafe Organic.
The first stop on the tour was Delica RF-1. After the San Francisco Ferry Building's large-scale renovation in 2003, which opened the nave, reintroduced light into the space, and reorganized programming to include high-end offices above and food spaces below to form a market. Photo by Cesar Rubio.
In Japan, Rock Field is the largest prepared food company, offering its good at its RF-1 take-out shops. With the help of a recommendation from Chez Panisse-founder Alice Waters, who had worked with Rock Field to develop new salad recipes, the company acquired a corner space in the renovated Ferry Building in which to launch its first U.S. shop. The prepared foods--such as wasabi potato salad and its kobe beef sushi--are handsomely displayed in food cases developed by Rock Field in Japan and delivered to the Ferry Building for this project. Photo by Joe Fletcher.
Though the space originally included a dining table at one end, the popularity of the restaurant and space needs pushed it out. The company cut the table in half and affixed half of it to the far side of the food counter to create a sushi bar. Photo by Cesar Rubio.
Although Delica RF-1 is only a 2,000-square-foot space, Smith says "it was much more difficult to design than a full restaurant." The reasoning? "You have to think of queuing, points of sale, and other things where in a restaurant you just have waiters bringing food to and from the table. Photo by Cesar Rubio.
Our next stop was at Pier 1 1/2, into which Smith inserted the Peruvian restaurant of chef Gaston Acurio, La Mar. Photo by Eric Laignel.
The restaurant occupies three historical buildings formerly used as a working pier. The half nearest the Embarcadero were the ticketing and baggage rooms--now the lobby and bar--and the room nearest the water was the waiting room (now the dining room, shown here). Photo by Eric Laignel.
The trick here, Smith says, was connecting the front half of the restaurant with the back half, the dining hall, because an open-air public promenade ran between the two. The solution: closing a section with glass walls (though it's still public space and clearly marked with signs letting walkers know they can stroll right through) and inserting a ceviche bar, made of stained Mahogany, and lounge (both shown here). "Because we had such beautiful historical architecture, we inserted pieces in a stealthy, modernist way," Smith says. Photo by Eric Laignel.
The ceviche bar wraps around into the dining hall, where the tables are elevated off the floor to lift them off the concrete but to also offer a level surface as the existing floor slopes nine inches from water end to land end. Here, we were treated to Pico sours and delicious corn empanadas. Photo by Eric Laignel.
Chairs and tables fills the patio on La Mar's waterfront (which is host to a public pier). Because of fickle San Francisco weather (and quick-to-descend fog), the deck is equipped with roll-down, canvas-and-plastic walls and ample space heaters. Photo by Eric Laignel.
Our final stop was at The Plant: Cafe Organic in historic Pier 3. Like La Mar, The Plant is split into two buildings but here, the space between is left open, offering eaters two entrances and spaces: the one on the left for sit-down dining (with room for 112) and the one on the right for take-out and private events (with loft seating for 25). Photo by Kris Tamburello.
Smith and his designers took a "hands-off approach," he says, to the design, respecting the historical details and adding light touches inside its shell. Also similar to La Mar, he raised the floor to take the table and chairs off the concrete as well as to raise the seating height to that of the windows, which were quite a ways off the original floor. In the far end, an air plant mural from Flora Grubb Gardens hangs on the wall. Photo by Kelly Barrie.
Smith designed and had custom-built all the tables and chairs in the mostly vegetarian, local- and organic-focused restaurant, whose fare includes (and we sampled) thin pizzas and beet burgers. "They reflect what the cafe and its food is all about," he says. Photo by Kelly Barrie.
The back of The Plant takes advantage of its waterfront views to the by and Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island. Again, canvas screens and space heaters were a must. Architecture and the City month continues through September 30. For more information on other events happening in San Francisco, visit aiasf.org. Photo by Kris Tamburello.