The saloon-turned-laundromat-turned-Michelin-starred restaurant that is Thomas Keller's French Laundry is getting its first major overhaul in 20 years. The historic dining room will be left unaltered, but the rest of the grounds and connected structures have already begun their transformation. The design, by Snøhetta with envelope A+D, replaces the restaurant's supporting buildings with a new expanded kitchen, along with a new outbuilding for a 14,000-bottle wine cellar and offices, plus a revamped courtyard and peekaboo entry sequence that frames the restaurant's blue door. While the renovation continues apace, Keller is making do with a pop-up kitchen in four shipping containers. The restaurant reopens tonight in the temporary configuration.
Snøhetta, the firm behind the forthcoming SFMOMA expansion, joined forces with envelope A+D, mastermind of the influential shipping-container retail popup Proxy, as well as kitchen designer Tim Harrison of Harrison, Koellner. According to Co.Design, Keller tapped Snøhetta for the renovation because he liked the firm's work in Times Square taming the cross-traffic between bikers, pedestrians, and cars. "He wondered if we could bring that [crowd control] into the kitchen," Snøhetta's Craig Dykers told Co.Design. One key of the design is a wavy, abstract white ceiling whose injection-molded-concrete form evokes a tablecloth unfurling. It's about function as well as form: The ceiling's curves make sound travel clearly, so that chefs can better communicate with one another from across the room. Other innovations are decidedly lower tech, like the two-inch cusps carved into the chefs' work tables, which allow them to scooch by each other.
For Keller, the new kitchen—which will be connected to the historic dining room via the same breezeway that led to the old kitchen—offered him a chance to layer contemporary materials against the dining room's early-1900s backdrop. "With the Louvre Pyramid as my inspiration, we wanted to find a way to juxtapose the historic and the modern," Keller says in a statement. The kitchen's sleek glass form is fritted with a pattern derived from the movements of chef's hands.
For now, though, the French Laundry is operating out of temporary quarters in four shipping containers, adapted by envelope A+D with the kitchen-design knowhow of Harrison. The renovated restaurant will open by the end of the year, at which point the containers will be taken out of commission. Snøhetta will only say that the project team is exploring options for the containers' fate, so maybe it's not too late to lobby for a popup in SF?
· The French Laundry Sets Reopening Date; Tons of Reservations Available [Eater SF]
· Previous Coverage of SFMOMA [Curbed SF]
· Peek Inside French Laundry's New Kitchen [Co.Design]
· Kitchen Demolition at the French Laundry [Instagram]
· Previous Coverage of Snøhetta [Curbed SF]