Restaurant Opera Garnier
Paris / France / 2007 (Project)
Design competition for a landmark cafe/restaurant within the Opera Garnier
Client: Messrs Costes
Net Area: 900 m2
When I think back to how we designed a project for a restaurant in an historic building of such importance as the Opera in Paris for an operator with such an amazing track record of landmark spots in Paris, I realised that it was more finding our design in the architecture of the building than imposing a new design on it. The geometry and the arrangement of the space served as the diagram of how to deal with the space with ‘our’ contribution. The starting point was a decision to try and not touch any of the existing structure and surfaces. The first task was to come up with a device to protect the space from the elements; to render an outdoor space into an indoor space. Making the glazing of the arches semi-cylindrical means that it is a free-standing, autonomous structure that is literally standing in the arches and does not rely on the columns for support (there is however a weather-proofing gasket in the line of contact, but without the need to drill into and adhere to the stonework). As well as echoing the circular geometry of the whole building, this device makes the space of the arches usable. The ‘roof' of the glass cylinders is a reference to the materiality, colouring and patinating of the main dome above the building.
The main feature in this project is an upside down dome the size of the main dome above, but this time the external scheme of the new dome, while keeping the colour of the one it mimics, is treated to be highly reflective which creates a breathtaking spatial experience. The inside scheme however is highly mirror-polished stainless steel that reflects and continues the stonework and the rosette at the centre of it. Inside the dome we have a 12m diameter mezzanine. The arches which surround the main rotunda are occupied by a tubular structure providing linear mezzanines around the dome but with enough gaps so as not to suffocate it. The tubes and the upside down dome provide an upper world that is suspended as if by magic above the untouched floor. The structure holding the upper world is camouflaged by following the surface of the arches, taking all the forces and weight through many invisible ‘legs’ following the geometry of the existing structure. This device is at the same time invisible but efficient. When you take a distanced view of the building there is an illusion of an implied notional ‘capsule’ from the top of the building to the bottom of the upside down dome.