- Project Name
- Jordan Kahn; Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- New Construction
- 5,500 sq. feet
- Shared by
- Project Status
At the hottest new restaurant in Los Angeles, architecture and food are equally integral to the dining experience.
Jordan Kahn, 33, is a much-wagged-about upstart chef in Los Angeles’ foodie scene. Eric Owen Moss, FAIA, now 73, has been a mainstay of the city’s design community for more than four decades. Sitting down in Moss’ office in Culver City, Calif., they pick up threads of a discussion they’ve been having for some time.
“There’s not a frame of reference for food. So for me it’s a completely different discussion than your frame of reference,” Moss says to Kahn. “The whole thing for me, it kind of had nothing to do with eating.”
“We didn’t create the experience for the guests as such,” Kahn says. “How you enter and exit and move through is largely based on what the building wanted.”
One gathers, by the by, that the unlikely pair has recently opened a new restaurant nearby, Vespertine, in one of the many extraordinary buildings with which Moss has populated the neighborhood known as the Hayden Tract. This one is affectionately nicknamed the Waffle, owing to its reticulated, red steel façade.
Dating back to his earliest residential projects, Moss has favored a vigorously projective approach, one founded on an almost religious conviction that architecture makes its own reasons, and that formal invention has the power to engender new realities, both conceptual and practical. A poet’s son, Moss has always been at home with lyrical mystery; lucky for him, Kahn has embraced that view, and the quality of the dining experience at Vespertine is almost as abstract as the building. “To give you a sense in advance would be antithetical to the approach,” Kahn says.
Would it be bootless, then, amid all this suggestive elusiveness, to describe the multistage dining process that carries visitors from one floor of the Waffle to the other—through a stacked dining room, kitchen, and patio—before depositing them back outside in a landscaped garden? What about the detailing of the blocky wooden worktables, or the pitcher that doesn’t stand upright, both of which Moss designed, along with the rest of the furniture and fixtures? It’s most unusual to think of a restaurant as being so much more than the sum of its architectural parts as to be cheapened by prosaic description. And yet that’s what Moss and Kahn appear to be going for.
More surprising still, that’s sort of what they’ve achieved. Photos are as close as you’re likely to get, since snagging a reservation is all but impossible. The rest is silence. But this is an accomplishment: Even the most talented restaurant designers are usually obliged to rely on narrative and atmospherics as their primary devices. No one should have expected Moss to design a restaurant that way, and he hasn’t. There’s no saying quite what he’s done instead, and while that may be a peril of Moss’ approach, it is also its pleasure.
Project: Vespertine, Culver City, Calif.
Client: Jordan Kahn; Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith
Architect: Eric Owen Moss Architects, Culver City, Calif. . Eric Owen Moss, FAIA (principal and lead designer); Dolan Daggett, Eric McNevin (project directors), Hugo Ventura, Vanessa Jauregui, Andrew Wright, Emmanuel Osorno (project designers), Cayetana Lopez, Daniel Hapton, Fausto Nunes, Zarmine Nigohos, Kyoung Kim (project team)
Structural Engineer: NAST Enterprises
Mechanical/Plumbing Engineer: Nibecker & Associates (BSC), Project MEP (TI)
Electrical Engineer: Moses & Associates (BSC); Project MEP (TI)
Civil Engineer: Paller-Roberts Engineering
General Contractor: Samitaur Constructs (BSC); Howard CDM (TI)
Surveyor: J.O. Nelson Consulting Land Surveyors
Landscape Architect: Land Images
Kitchen Equipment: Kitchen Restaurant + Bar Specialists; SML Stainless Steel Group
Custom Steel Furniture Fabrication: Tom Farrage & Co.
Custom Wood Furniture Fabrication: John Ford
Size: 5,500 square feet