Entremet: Why so boring?

You may have read my frequent criticisms San Francisco’s dining scene. Point is, I think the Bay Area has some of the best restaurants in the world. Period. But while all the focus seems to go on the food and service, the architecture and design are, simply put, boring. I can’t help but wonder why.

Let’s look at retail spaces for a minute. Like the new Prada store in Union Square, finally open after 10 years of deliberation. The original plan to build a 10-story structure designed by renowned architect Rem Koolhaas never left the blueprint. And after all the anticipation, all we got was an unremarkable business office storefront as inventive as the late Sharper Image down the block. And this is Prada we are talking about; the brand that redefined retail experiences first with its NYC SoHo store (designed by Koolhaas and IDEO). Then Los Angeles got its fair share of Prada’s modern architecture with Koolhaas’ Rodeo Drive epicenter. Not to mention Tokyo’s jaw-dropping Prada cathedral designed by Herzog & De Meuron.

So why do most of our restaurants (and our Prada store) have the aesthetic originality of a shoebox? Why can’t we find inspiring designs like NYC’s Lever House and Brasserie in San Francisco?

You can blame the city’s laid-back style, our intransigent building codes or simply the local cost of business. The fact is, in America’s most forward-thinking city, when it comes to restaurant design, our heads are well buried in the sand.


Patrick said...

I hear ya on the restaurant design. It often feels like every SF restaurant in the concept stage is shown two photographs - clean, minimalist restaurant and rustic, casual restaurant - and forced to pick one or the other. But on the whole, it seems like SF restaurateurs don't get access to the same types of funds that NY and LA restaurants get. It's extremely rare to hear of new multi-million dollar projects here that NY, LA, or even Miami get all the time. For all the food and restaurant appreciation we have, I suspect that few SF residents actually eat out often and that has a direct effect on how much restaurants here earn and can spend on new places.

Oh and that Prada store... the interior looks like one of the deserted floors in Macy's from the 80s. They shouldn't have bothered completing it.

Mr. Important said...

I agree with the basic premise that restaurant interiors in the City are predictable and blase. But I disagree with the idea that you need multi million dollar budget in order to bring a truly fresh attitude to an interior. I am a bit biased, being a designer myself, but take a look at Gitane opening in late August early Sept. and get back to me.

mattatouille said...

I agree, sometimes minimalism is boring. I haven't been to The Bazaar yet (shame), but I can't wait to contrast that with Animal, which is essentially a white shoebox of a room with incadescents jutting out of the wall. That's it.