Décor-wise Founding Farmers was the best of the three projects I saw by DC-based architecture firm CORE. The design favors rustic modernism reminiscent of a farmhouse, with charming, quirky light fixtures, wood beams, and whitewashed planks. As part of the LEED criteria, CORE incorporated solar power-generation on the building site itself, which provides energy for heating and cooling in addition to electricity, supplemented by geothermal pumps. Plenty of renewable materials and lots of natural light added to the checklist of green features.
Founding Farmers is owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union, a 40,000 person cooperative interested in promoting sustainable agriculture. Green design was a mandate from the Farmers Union itself, but perhaps most stridently enforced by the restaurant’s landlord: The IMF. Housed on the Pennsylvania Ave end of the International Monetary Fund’s Pei, Cobb, Freed and Partners building, this restaurant had to balance sustainability with security far more than your average Washington haunt.
Perhaps the most clever design in the whole place, and one that marries design with security in a way the State Department could learn from, was cladding the metal detector at the door in reclaimed wood from West Virginia farms. I had no idea the towering wooden pillars were anything but a nod to barn construction until CORE founder Peter Hapstak told me otherwise.
In other global financial dining news, we also managed to snag a lunch at the cafeteria of the World Bank next door to the IMF, prompting a local friend, speaking on the condition of anonymity of course, to quip that we were "eating our way through the Axis of Evil." Oh Washington, how we love thee!
Photo courtesy of CORE.