March 1, 2010

The Wright Stuff: Andre Kikoski Designs The Restaurant At The Guggenheim Museum

Almost a decade ago, the very first project completed by Andre Kikoski Architect was a multilevel New York restaurant where, thanks to water flowing through channels, you dined at tables apparently anchored in the middle of a moody subterranean lake. A few years later, the firm designed a candy-coated showcase for a hot, young chef. Both establishments have since closed, but a new commission, the Wright restaurant at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, makes the verdict official: Andre Kikoski’s high profile is forever linked to haute hospitality.

Like plays and movies, restaurants are an essential part of our culture,” Kikoski says. He also reports that, only months after the Wright opened, it’s appeared on design and culture Web sites around the world. Driving additional interest is a site-specific installation by sculptor Liam Gillick, a friend whom Kikoski met through their sons at a local playground.

The Wright is a kind of playground for adults. “Inventive, memorable, intimate, and comfortable,” is how Kikoski describes his vision for the 1,600-square-foot space off Frank Lloyd Wright’s spiraling rotunda. Given the small footprint, Kikoski packed in 58 diners by pushing design elements to the perimeter, for example the ceiling’s layers of stretched fabric and the bar’s walnut paneling. Instead of reprising the previous cafeteria’s Wright-ian Cherokee red paint, Kikoski chose gallerylike white for walls and the resin floor. The whiteness sets off the autumnal tones of Gillick’s sculpture.

Officially part of the museum’s collection, this modular piece can be reinstalled elsewhere should the decor need to change. And it probably will eventually. As Kikoski has learned, the only constant in restaurant design and cuisine is that taste never stands still.

Photography by Peter Aaron/Esto.

Brian Lewis; Gunnar Jung; Adam Darter; Liam Harris; Claire Foy; Laurie Karsten

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