'An emporium of elaborate meals': The American Restaurant in Kansas City wins design icon award

The James Beard Foundation (JBF) has announced today (7 March) that The American Restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri, has been awarded this year’s Design Icon Award.

The accolade, which celebrates landmark examples of great restaurant design, will be given to the owners of the eatery, which was described by the prize’s jury as “equally known for its architectural and culinary artistry.”

The American Restaurant opened on Valentine’s Day 1974 atop Crown Center in Kansas City. Its architect, the US modernist Warren Platner, described his work as “bridging the contrast in scale between great volumes of space and the minute detail of food and tableware, between public gathering and personal intimacy.”

“The design,” he added, “entertains the diner and gives distinction to the server in this emporium of elaborate meals.”

In a statement, the JBF said: “Built and still owned by CrownCenter, the real estate development business for Hallmark Cards, the restaurant and its design is as much a confection as a considered confluence of space, form, light, and colour.

“One travels to The American by elevator, arriving at the top of the three story-high restaurant in a carefully designed but modest entry space. As the visitor descends into the restaurant, the grand 6,500sq ft space is dramatically revealed as the terraced landings create an enormous glass-lined theatre with views of the city visible below.

“The lacy Gothic-inspired bentwood rosette-topped pillars above not only lend a ‘dining under the trees’ feel, but, because they line the ceiling, make for an intriguing view from the street below. Miles of wood louvers cover the sheets of glass adding to the sense of tree-filtered light and making a very large space feel quite intimate. While design elements have been altered in the intervening decades, the largest gestures, including the decorative wood elements, are all intact.”

Stacey Paine, president of the Crown Center Redevelopment Corporation, said: "We are honoured to receive the Design Icon Award from the James Beard Foundation. Warren Platner created a unique design, timeless in nature and a wonderful example of great architecture inspiring those around it. We are proud to have The American recognised.”

The Design Icon Award is chosen by the JBF’s Restaurant Design Committee, led by architect James Biber. In order to qualify, a restaurant's design must have remained substantially unchanged for at least 20 years and must have influenced and inspired the design of subsequent restaurants and dining spaces.

The James Beard Foundation Awards Gala will be held at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on 7 May, 2018. During the event, which is open to the public, awards for the best Restaurant and Chef in America will be handed out. Two further design categories will award restaurants with 75 seats and under, and 76 seats and over.

Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards recognise culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and furthers the foundation’s mission “to celebrate, nurture, and honour chefs and other leaders making America's food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone.”

The winner of the Design Icon Award last year was awarded to The Grand Central Oyster Bar and Restaurant in New York, located under the chambers of Grand Central Station designed by architect Rafael Guastavino Moreno.

The American Restaurant  Kansas City  James Bear Foundation  James Biber  James Beard Awards 
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