Officine Brera, Los Angeles, CA. Designed by: (fer) studio, LLP. Photo: Jack Coyier

(fer)studio Takes Us Inside the Design of Restaurant Officine Brera

In conjunction with its AIA|LA Restaurant Design Awards, the chapter hosts an annual ‘Behind Great Restaurant Design’ panel at Dwell on Design. Relaxed but informative, the event features an interchange between the designers of the awards program's finalists, projects selected by the jury, and the jury itself.

This year jury members—restaurateur Bill Chiat and designer Alexis Readinger, Assoc. AIA,—riffed off each other, sharing their in-depth knowledge, passion for restaurants and engaging the finalists, themselves. Afterwords, questions from the audience prompted surprising stories from finalists about how they acquired their first commission for a restaurant, cafe or bar.

Back at the office, we thought—why end that conversation here—and asked all 2016 finalists to respond to three questions.

In addition to design challenges specifically generated by the restaurant typology, (fer) studio, the designers of Officine Brera, needed to address a problem faced by architects retrofitting and rehabbing structures. The roof could not support the mechanical system. Christopher L. Mercier, AIA, Design Principal / Partner (fer) studio fills us in on the details in this inside look at the design of Officine Brera.

How did the office get its first restaurant design commission?
We actually started off years ago when I was the only one working by teaming up with a friend of mine helping out on some night club design.  As we did a number of those night club/bar type projects it opened some doors to the food service world and through a recommendation of another friend we started on some small café/coffee bar projects. This just kept growing to where we are today. 

What most surprised you about designing Officine Brera? Or, what was the toughest challenge?
I think the biggest challenge with all restaurant projects is the number of moving parts one has to contented with the ability to orchestrate it all over the whole design and construction process so that it comes off with a sense of spatial harmony.  With Officine Brera the kitchen was continuously pushing and pulling against the dining room, existing building exterior side walls and the various other spaces in the building as the kitchen equipment needs were being adjusted based on the projected and ever changing menu.  This made the development and refinement of the dining rooms, entry area and side corridor kind of like residual spaces that we were constantly making adjusts to insuring they flowed together spatially.

Additionally and unique to this project is that the entire mechanical system was installed on a mezz roof platform above the kitchen inside the larger existing bldg. shell.  This is due to the fact that the existing historic masonry and steel bldg., which without substantially more structural retrofit work beyond the structural retrofit work we were already doing, would not support the needed equipment on the roof. It was a real challenge in the design process as well as during construction to get all this to equipment and links to from services and utilities to fit so that in the completed restaurant dining room you don’t even know its all up there.   

What’s a current project and why are you excited about designing it?
Currently we are working on semi large urban design for a city along the southern California coast close to San Diego.  Its basically a mixed use development that will end up acting in a number of urban arenas. 

First and foremost it will become a transit center (TOD) providing parking for the local city as well as transit users from various surrounding cities.  Secondly it will become a new form of city center extending the existing commercial district north in a natural progression.  Thirdly it will act as a urban link both physically and visually attempting to weave the city back together in the east west direction which has been separated over the years by the existing open gully formed by the recessed transit train as well as a larger vehicular thoroughfare.  With the addition of a proposed new vehicular and pedestrian bridge as well as through thoughtfully scaled relaxed low level commercial and residential urban density it provides new horizontal view and pedestrian shopping corridors that create a dialogue with the existing small intimate city fabric.  

Overall it becomes a new district that is seamlessly blended into the existing city scape providing shopping, creative office, residential, a small boutique hotel and some amazing restaurant opportunities. 
Last updated: 15-Jul-2016 12:18 PM
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