Andre Kikoski, the architect behind The Wright, the newly-redesigned restaurant at the Guggenheim in New York, confessed that he was totally intimidated when he landed the commission for the project. Who wouldn’t be? The very thought of designing a space that would fit into Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fifth Avenue masterpiece would strike fear in the heart of any but the most arrogant or self-deluded.
But, after spending weeks of digging through research on Wright, and poring over the museum’s archives, Kikoski and his team felt comfortable enough to begin. “Once I admitted my own terror, we all had a cathartic sigh and got the creative juices flowing. Once we embraced it, it became clear what we needed to do.”
The result is a small but inviting space tucked in the museum’s southeast corner that captures the spirit of Wright’s iconic structure but isn’t cowed by it. “We packed 100,000 square feet of ambition into 1,600 square feet of space,” Kikoski says, over coffee in a cafe not far from his Tribeca office.
Kikoski, who has been nominated for a James Beard Foundation Awards for Outstanding Restaurant Design, and was named one of New York Magazine‘s “New Garde of Ten Designers,” has a resume long on restaurant and residential design.
The project, which was begun after the recession was well underway, never had the luxury of a blockbuster budget. Still, Kikoski was determined to create a space that was both contemporary and complementary to Wright’s design.
Critics have called the space “a gem within the Guggenheim,” proving you can create a jewel even without a Trump-sized wallet.
Here’s the skinny on the project:
Name of Restaurant: The Wright
Location: Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, at 89th St., New York
Date it opened: December, 2009
Chef and Cuisine: Rudolfo Contreras
Modern American cuisine, inspired by the bold personality of Frank Lloyd Wright
Designer: Andre Kikoski
Design Brief: Create a first-ever addition to the iconic museum, and a restaurant that would be an appropriate space for fine dining and the viewing of art, including a site-specific piece for the permanent collection.
What went before: The space was a cafeteria, with carpeting over the terrazzo tiles, and a stainless steel cafe counter made by the company that manufacturers Sikorsky helicopters. “It curved in two directions and was so carefully wired that if you cut it wrong it would spring in both directions,” Kikoski says.
Design Highlights: The sculpted, calibrated interior grew out of studies of the geometry that Wright used throughout the building. “We used Wright’s geometry to create sculpted, torqued forms that sweep through the resturant and give it a place within the language of the museum and its iconic architecture, but are uniquely its own. It’s both Wrightian and never something Wright could have done,” Kikoski says.
Among the room’s features are a curvilinear walnut wall layered with illuminated fiber-optics; a bar clad in a custom metalwork and topped in seamless white Corian; a blue leather banquette, and a layered white ceiling canopy. Kikoski designed the tables, chairs and barstools, and the football-shaped communal table, derived from a shape used throughout the building. That shape led to elements in the ceiling and banquette. “Everything radiated from it,” Kikoski says.
Special features: Artist Liam Gillick’s vividly colored extruded aluminum wall sculpture, “The Horizon,” rims the room. Gillick and Kokoski worked closely to make sure that the art and architecture were in perfect harmony. “Our use of color was muted and restrained, while his is vibrant and audacious,” says Kikoski. “We were both committed to the idea that this had to work like the museum, where the symbiosis of art and architecture exhibits perfect complementarity.”