Los Angeles, CA
Circolo Restaurant, the precursor to Nicola, is in a new building that was almost medieval in its disorder and lack of control. Two contiguous existing long narrow spaces, rectilinear volumes, are punctuated by a large vertical space (30 feet high). Geometric analysis of the building identified misalignments and offsets that we “corrected” by the placement of new elements that reconfigure the spaces.
The restaurant accommodated three types of Italian dining for three speeds: (Fast) a cafe bar and deli for espresso, snacks, and take-away; (Medium) tavolo caldo, for pre-prepared food; and the (Slow) trattoria, for the long meal. One of the tall spaces was to have a 30 foot-high pizza altar, as a tribute to my father, Carmine, a great chef in L.A. in the 50s and 60s.
We chose wood for the primary material, and were inspired by the beauty of Russian wooden buildings, Japanese wooden temples, Scandinavian wooden boats, and unfinished wood-framed buildings. Working directly with a crew of craftsmen, we applied the following operations on the material: repetition, rotation, bending, shifting and extension. The simple device of points and lines was used to imply planes and volumes. The restaurant was to be active from morning till night.