We imagined an urban black box which, almost like a mobile kiosk, could be plugged into the dilapidated fortifications and inaugurate their regeneration.
This insertion approach was primarily preferred to ensure favorable planning permission within the historical urban context, but soon the project’s ephemeral theme also made sense from an operational point of view: the clients held a ten year lease on the property – so theoretically they could remove the kiosk and ‘plant’ it elsewhere in the future. Consequently, the main challenge of the project was to contain the entire restaurant’s infrastructure within the lightweight steel-timber structure. The lighting installation, power, sound, running water, cooling, air extraction, food and drink preparation were all carefully masked inside the box ridding the bastion walls of all visible interventions.
The ‘kiosk’s sloping wall, imitating the angle of the C16th century bastions, increased square metres on both ground and first floor; while sensitively preserving the original volume of the vault. Internally, the acute angles provided welcome space for storage and the sound/air extraction system. Within its present context the black box separates the dining (downstairs) from the lounging (upstairs), and slides outside to a voyeuristic terrace looking out over the hip scene and onto the harbour. At its inner end, the dark and sensuous toilets were fitted with a custom-made glass curtain and additional hidden conveniences; one of which is a narrow window offering a peeping sight on the basins of the opposite sex.
The outdoor concrete terrace, split into two by an illuminated waterfall, sinks gently like an amphitheatre around the raw concrete landscape. Following the austere lines of the bastions on plan while reflecting the interior planning layout, the waterfall separates the dining from the lounge areas. Incoming patrons are greeted with the balmy sounds of falling water on warm summer nights.
The result was a very satisfactory image of a legible contemporary function harmoniously placed within a historical context, with the added advantage of total reversibility thanks to its use of light weight materials and structural independence. The shape of the box became the logo of the venue, the address of the site became its name. After eleven months awaiting various permits and eleven weeks of intense site works, the box’s tilted door opened and welcomed its first guests on January 2007.
To date, the venue has changed the perception of a dilapidated neighbourhood into a hip and trendy eatery with strong socio-cultural events.