Detroit, MI, USA | View Map
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Chris Miele


Undecorated as Architects

Takoi is an exercise in transforming an obsolete service garage into an urban restaurant.


The restaurant is situated between two major roads in Millenium Village of Detroit, Michigan. The design began in 2014 during Detroit’s bankruptcy, challenging the team to be resourceful. The client’s non-egotiables were: open kitchen, booth seats, and a communal table. The rest was open ended.


The existing building was missing its back wall. An addition was designed to contain the kitchen and bathrooms which integrated the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing budget with the new construction costs.


Additionally, the building required a new roof. To bring natural light into the restaurant, skylights were built into the new roof. This combined the roof budget with the fenestration budget. The expensive and time consuming alternative would have been to punch openings through the existing structural walls.


Program studies concluded that 50% of the restaurant’s square area and a significant portion of the budget was dedicated to back of house services. So, it made sense to put the services at the forefront of the design. The bar services at the front of the restaurant were split from the kitchen services to “bookend” the dining room in tandem.


The dining room aspired to: unify everyone under one experience, seat guests low to the ground to embrace the space, and highlight the cuisine and drinks while maintaining a visual connection between guest and staff. The result was a dining “Pan” where the architecture ends at table height. Studies also showed that booths were 30% more efficient than traditional seating.


To save costs, the existing patinated walls remained unchanged. Undecorated conceptualized the restaurant as a lantern to celebrate light as a community. This concept, considered with the budget constraints, generated the opportunity to combine the light source with the material finish. So, the bookends were clad with backlit translucent polycarbonate panels.


The storage and accessory programs did not need the garage’s 14-foot-tall ceilings. Their temperature controls are also separate from the restaurant. Therefore, to free up square area in the garage for more guest space, the programs were placed in shipping containers outside of the garage and adjacent to the spaces they serve. This decision also shapes the negative space of the site for outdoor use opportunities.

Finally, the client had the ambition to provide outdoor food and drink service. The challenge was to screen the noise and activity from the busy Michigan Ave and Interstate 75 that sandwich the site. The solution was to extrude a screen generated from the property line with undulations based on pedestrian and vehicular access. The result is a series of unique courtyards behind a layering of screens that buffer the passing cars while maintaining light and visual connectivity. The courtyards were populated with maple trees to create a grove that shades guests during Detroit’s summer months.


Materials Used:

1. Polygal - 16mm Multiwall Polycarbonate, Ice (color)
2. Velux - acrylic double dome curb mount skylight
3. Roseburg Riadata Pine Sanded Plywood
4. Maharam Fabric - Checkered Split by Alexander Girard

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Project Credits
Products used in this project
Product Spec Sheet

ElementBrandProduct name
ManufacturersPolygal USA
ManufacturersVELUX Commercial
Acrylic double dome curb mount skylight
ManufacturersRoseburg Forest Products
Riadata Pine Sanded Plywood
Product Spec Sheet
Acrylic double dome curb mount skylight by VELUX Commercial
Checkered by Maharam
Riadata Pine Sanded Plywood by Roseburg Forest Products
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