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In Situ represents a unique and rich intersection of art, design, and food, each augmenting the other to reimagine museum dining, and our relationships with food. In support of Chef Corey Lee’s vision and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s greater mission, the design emphasizes visibility from the street, open accessibility to visitors and a sense of the ephemeral within a simple, comfortable environment.

Inhabiting street-front space in the existing shell of the Mario Botta-designed portion of the recently reopened SFMoMA, the interior volume of the previous museum café was excavated, and left partially raw and exposed. Inserted in to this excavation is an interplay of floating white art walls, carefully placed to bracket space within the larger expanse of the restaurant.

Strategically placed steel apertures and felt acoustic panels calibrate the zones of passage, both visual and physical, between the street and the restaurant, as well as the restaurant and the existing museum’s atrium. Together with the raw shell, these layers create a backdrop for discreetly placed “artifacts”, analogous to ingredients in their various states of refinement, strategically employed to engage the guest’s physical experience.

All were inspired thru a collaborative process with the intent of drawing contrast between the rough and the refined: custom designed lighting, custom furniture and a sculptural wood ceiling. Approaching the restaurant off the street, a new steel window box and wooden door are incised on to the existing fabric of the storefront. Additional steel portals are inserted through the existing skin of museums wood paneled atrium; affording views from the atrium in to the restaurant, and vice versa.

Once inside, an informal standing and sitting lounge area is envisioned as a shared living room for the street and museum. Toward the back of the restaurant, a quiet formal dining experience is supported by a more intimately scaled and acoustically muted space.

An ephemeral full wall mural by Rosana Castrillo Diaz was commissioned for the energy of the front lounge area, while an aggregation of gold framed illustrations by Tucker Nichols was commissioned for subtle rigor of the dining area, tasked with drawing the eye from the street through the restaurant.

The final art wall sets up a neutral canvas for a linear constellation of diners perched along a minimal banquette, making the patrons, and ultimately the food they are presented with, as the final ever changing daily art commission.

Design: Aidlin Darling Design
Photography: Matthew Millman, Alanna Hale, Adam Rouse

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