The Brasserie

by | 12. Feb 2013

Cultural | Project | Renovation
The prospect of redesigning one of New York’s legendary restaurants in one of the world’s most distinguished modernist buildings was as inviting as it was daunting. The architecture of the new restaurant respectfully challenges many of the tenets of modernism
/Diller + Scofidio

Philip Johnson designed two restaurants in the Mies van der Rohe Seagram Building (1958); the Four Seasons and the Brasserie. After a fire ravaged the Brasserie in 1995 the owners selected Diller + Scofidio to redesign the space.


Photo: Michael Moran

After removing all traces of Philip Johnson’s interior, the rough concrete surfaces of the original space were relined with new skins of wood, terrazzo, tile, and glass. These thin “liners” often lift from their surfaces to become structural, spatial and functional components. For example, the madrone floor peels up while the pearwood ceiling peels down and is molded into seating as part of a continuous wrapper around the main dining space.

Pearwood skins in the rear dining room peel from the plaster ceiling and wall to become free-floating partitions which delaminate into illuminated veneers.


Photo: Michael Moran



Photo: Michael Moran


While the Seagram Building is the premiere 20th century glass tower, the restaurant, lodged in the stone base of the building, is entirely without glass or view. This irony prompted a series of contemplation’s about glass and vision.

At the entry, a glass surrogate straddles the stone wall; a live video camera outside and a plasma monitor inside provide an electronic transparency to the street.


Photo: Michael Moran

In the rear dining room, a 48 foot long glass wall leans against a perimeter wall and sheaths a display of artifacts. The lenticular glass teases vision by blurring all but perpendicular views. The equation between glass and fragility is exploited as the tipped glass wall supports 24 seated diners along its length.


Photo: Michael Moran

The design emphasizes the social aspects of dining. Entrance from the street is transformed into the ritual of “making an entrance”. Initially, a sensor in the revolving entry door triggers a video snapshot that is added to a continuously changing display on over the bar, announcing every new patron.

Along the “video beam” composed of 15 side by side LCD monitors, the most recent portrait takes the first position and racks the previous 15 to the right, dropping away the oldest.


Photo: Michael Moran

Beyond, in a recall of the original Brasserie, the descent into the main dining room (several feet below street level), is theatricized: a stair in glass of unusually gradual proportions prolongs the descent of each new patron and puts him or her on display as they enter the space.


Photo: Michael Moran

Other features include: a slender space flanking the dining area that is sliced into private booths by a series of tall, upholstered slabs tipped up on end and propped on steel legs.


Photo: Michael Moran

Men’s and women’s bathrooms are separated physically yet connected visually by semi-transparent honeycomb panels and a cast resin sink spanning the both spaces with a single drain between.


Photo: Michael Moran

Dining tables of poured resin are formed around stainless steel structural supports that remain visible through the material; tripods steel supports that carry bar seats injected with medical gel.


Drawing courtesy Diller + ScofidioThe Brasserie Plan



The Seagram Building



CITYNew York, New York