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Susan Ungaro & James Biber - James Beard Foundation

Project: James Beard Outstanding Restaurant Design Awards


The winners of the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Restaurant Design Awards were announced recently at a ceremony in Chicago.

Design studios Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Demian Repucci Design and Land and Sea Dept were judged to have created the best restaurant designs or renovations in North America in the past three years.

The first two practices tied for first place in the category for restaurants with 75 seats and under.

Renzo Piano Building Workshop were honoured for their Untitled restaurant at New York’s recently opened Whitney Museum of American Art, created in collaboration with fellow firms Cooper Robertson and Bentel & Bentel. Demian Repucci Design won for their restaurant Bruno, also in New York.

“Bruno is like a stretch limo version of a neighbourhood pizza restaurant,” said James Biber, chair of the Restaurant Design Awards Committee at the James Beard Foundation. “The stripped-down, low-budget design works because of its extreme simplicity and unifying colour. The jurors admired just how much was accomplished with a limited palette and budget.

“Untitled is a part of the much admired new Whitney Museum building, occupying part of the transparent ground floor. It is so transparent that it feels like an outdoor dining room defined by the urban elements surrounding it more than the museum itself. In some ways the opposite of its co-winner Bruno; this is a high budget stripped-down space but with a sense of the grand café.” 

Land and Sea Dept were top in the category for restaurants with 76 seats and over for their design of the Cherry Circle Room in Chicago.

“Cherry Circle Room is a refit of an existing bar space within the historical 19th century Downtown Chicago Athletic Association on Michigan Avenue,” said Biber. “The design manages that careful balancing act between old and new, between clubby and public, and between serious and fun.”

Finally, the James Beard Foundation presented its first ever Design Icon Award to The Four Seasons restaurant in New York.

Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation, said: “It was unanimously decided that the Design Icon Award should go to the Four Seasons restaurant. We wanted to celebrate the stunning design by Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe. They came up with some great ideas – the metal curtains that have been replicated by so many other restuarants, the grand pool at the centre of the Pool Room, the trees that change with the seasons.. It was a truly one of a kind look.”

The Four Seasons restaurant will be moving to 280 Park Avenue in July, when its lease at the Seagram Building expires.

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Company profile: TLEE Spas + Wellness
TLEE Spas + Wellness is a globally recognised spa design and consulting firm created in 2010 by Tracy Lee.
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CLAD people: Susan Ungaro & James Biber
Susan Ungaro, CEO of the legendary James Beard Foundation – arbiter of all things foodie, talks about why restaurant design is being recognised with a new award from the foundation.
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