Restaurant Architecture

to design the production of the Miracle for Max Reinhardt at the Century Theater, New York. Mr. Reinhardt had produced the Miracle many times, and he wanted me to work out an idea for presenting the play that would be different from any he had used before. The scheme that was finally evolved was to reconstruct the in­terior of the theater into a cathedral.

The large proscenium of the Century The­ater was thrown open to its full width and height. The stage became the apse and the auditorium itself took on the appearance of a transept. As you entered the rear of the audi­torium, you had the sense of standing in the nave and looking through the transept into the

enormous stained-glass windows (eighty feet high) at the sides of the tran­sept and around the apse, there was scarcely any illumination at all. The entire structure was painted dull black. Consequently, you had the feeling of being in the musty dark atmosphere of an old continental cathedral.147

As a result of this setting, moving-picture theaters all over the country were redecorated to resemble cathedrals, Chinese pagodas, Egyptian temples, Spanish courtyards and the like. Then the movement spread to restaurants. When I refused to accept a commission to design several restaurants for a woman, now well known in the field, she used my name, until I had to take legal action against her to prevent the implication that I had designed her restaurants which were in imitation of my treatment of the Century The­ater. Later, even the Child’s restaurant which for years had maintained a

style that was well known and recognized instantly the country over, changed a number of its establishments into Old English taverns. The point of view that has faith in creating a fake atmosphere is all too typically Amer­ican. At the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, architects built Grecian temples in the form of business buildings, and since then they have imitated every known architectural style in Europe for one purpose or another.

In the case of the Miracle it is a different story. Architecture is one thing, scenery is another. The story of this play took place in a church of the Middle Ages. In order to stage the play, it was necessary to create the atmosphere for it. To be sure, it could have been done in an abstract style and in fact I en­deavored to persuade Reinhardt to do it in such a way, but this is beside the point. What we did was thoroughly dignified and appropriate.

In Coney Island and California we often see an entire shop built as a sign for its wares. An ice-cream cone is sold in a shop whose architectural form resembles a milk can150 or an ice-cream freezer, with a long swinging crank to attract attention. The soda fountain is buried under a mountain of imita­tion-stucco snow. Soft drinks are imbibed at counters set inside of immense barrels, or at booths shaped like oranges or lemons. The architectural form of the Brown Derby Restaurant does every­thing possible to resemble a huge bowler.

Such innovations are, of course, mere­ly applications of advertising principles to architecture. As a genre, the result might be known as Coney Island Archi­tecture. But it is symptomatic and in­teresting on that account. Unquestion­ably, a new liveliness is coming into







architecture and we may yet hear of it as one of the Seven Lively Arts. It can certainly be made as vivacious as the tabloids, the talkies, or vaudeville. But there is another type of building, less obvious, and dignified enough to be classed as architecture.

A sincere style in architecture is the direct result of the problem to be solved, of the materials involved, and of the sensitiveness of the artist. An artificial style is applied decoration. At present, the country is flooded with a great quantity of examples of the poor under the pseudonym of the "mod – ern istic style.” The italics are mine. The is tics like the isms are fussers, gad – geteers, pseudo-artists. But the public is learning to differentiate between work that is merely craftsmanship without good design and that which is at least well designed and perhaps a work of art; between the mere craft of building and a building by an artist which becomes architecture. The exterior

form of such architecture grows out of its inner purpose, and its character­istics are in keeping with its purpose. Novel amusement buildings, with higher claims to consideration as architecture than the obvious derby-hat restaurant may well become a commonplace in the future.

At strategic positions throughout the exhibition grounds of any big fair enterprise, there must be located large restaurant areas to handle scores of thousands of persons, who desire to eat at approximately the same hours. The

success of the entire fair may depend upon the facility with which the hungry crowds are accommodated; and, to some extent, the success of the fair may depend upon maintaining the festal character of the enterprise throughout the dining period. Restaurant architecture to meet these conditions must be not only practical from the cooking and serving points of view; it must also be inviting because of its novelty, and if it offers certain amusement features, so much the better.

The Open-Air Cabaret151 was the outgrowth of the particular problems that I have just indicated. Here is an eating place at a low price for a large number of patrons, and comparable in American terms to the sidewalk cafes of France and the beer gardens of Germany. The open-air cabaret seats 2,250 persons. To merely build a fence around the area and put the diners inside

would be as appetizing as Chicago’s famous stockyards, but less remunera­tive. Consequently, the space has been broken up into units, by low-walled hedges. Each unit is built on a slightly different level. There is a satisfactory psychological reaction in going up or down a fewsteps and passing into another

space that adds variety and detracts from the monotony of an enormous area.

These walls are so designed that they are used as passages for waiters and busboys.”2 Any waiter or busboy travels eighty per cent of the dis­tance from the kitchen to any table, out of sight of the diners. The tops of these walled passages are used as the apron of the stage. (The apron is the part of a stage that projects into the auditorium.) A performer can leave the stage as he starts to sing a song, or juggle an egg, or do sleight-of-hand, or a tap dance, or whatever his act happens to be, and finish long before he has made a complete circuit of the various ramifications of this apron stage. In this way the entertainment is brought into more intimate contact with the audience and offers continuous variety. Half a dozen acts can be going on simultane­ously without interfering with one another. The different levels into which the restaurant is divided not only give variety, but increase the visibility and sight lines. They make it possible for persons sitting at the far end of the garden, to see the stage and performers in all other parts of the garden.

Its three-story building contains lounges for men and women, offices, dressing rooms for entertainers, rooms for electricians and mechanics, kitch­ens and pantries.”2 Directly in front of the building is the small quadrant­shaped stage from which run the covered passageways at an average height of four feet above the ground-floor level, in the form of two interlacing squares. The sides of the passageways are walled up and their intersections enlarged to form sub-pantries. Ramps lead to the passageways from the floor level of the dining areas.”2 The sinking of the passages for waiters below the level of the ground keeps the waiters from obstructing the view of those watching the entertainment and keeps food and dishes out of sight most of the time. The farthest point any diner is removed from the meandering stage is a depth of five tables or the equivalent of about twelve rows in a theater.”1

Surrounding the whole cabaret are steps, with entrances on the four main axes. The entrance gates are high grilles made of Neon tubes supported on duraluminum frames.1” The plot of ground is approximately four hundred feet square. Of this area, seven thousand square feet are taken up by the entrance building, and sixty-five thousand square feet by chairs and tables.

I have indicated that restaurant architecture should comprise features which in themselves are capable of furnishing amusement. From this view­point, consider the Island Dance Restaurant. Here is an open-air restaurant in the middle of a lagoon.1” Although it seats an enormous number of people, it is so broken up in plan that it does not appear as vast as it is in reality. It offers continuously varying interest, due to the fact that it is broken up: canoes floating about on all sides, couples dancing on a circular floor around the orchestra, the dancers mirrored in the water. Thirty-six slender Neon tubes spring from the orchestra floor and unite in a series of interlacing arches, which are the main source of illumination.1” The tubes are supported on light duraluminum frames. The inner circle, which is on the outer edge of the orchestra platform turns slowly at the rate of one revolution in five min­utes. These tubes would not only light the restaurant and the central area of the Exposition grounds but would be the largest beacon in the world and visible for a great distance. Neon tubes do not heat, so the dancing couples could not burn themselves.

This restaurant is a group of four islands.1” Three small canals radiate from the inner lagoon that encircles the dance floor, joining it with the main outer lagoon. These entrance canals divide the dining terraces into three sections. It is possible for canoes to enter from the main lagoon and circle the dance floor without disturbing dancers or diners. These three sections comprise the dining area. The restaurant has space for an orchestra of thirty pieces
in the center. The dance floor comfortably accommodates two hundred couples. It completely surrounds the orchestra and is separated from the dining terraces by a canal fourteen feet wide. Six bridges span this canal, leading from the dining terraces to the dance floor, eliminating the usual congestion and the possibility of crowding tables for late comers onto the dance floor.

The terraces provide a table area for eight hundred diners. The terraces radiate from the dance floor and rise at the rear to twelve feet above the water level. The terrace arrangement permits the entire dance floor to be visible

from every table. Each of the three dining islands has a semicircular landing platform with radiating docks for small water craft. Each island has its own ladies’ and gentlemen’s retiring rooms underneath the higher terraces. One of the sections houses the main kitchen. The other two sections house sub­kitchens and serving pantries. Steam trucks convey cooked food from the main kitchen to the sub-kitchens.

The area covered by the Island Dance Res-


taurant is approximately 566,000 square feet, designed by norman bel geddes 1*29 of which 10,000 square feet are devoted to the orchestra; 30,400 square feet are devoted to the dance floor, and 136,280 square feet to the dining terraces.

The grounds for the Chicago Exposition are mostly filled in. In the original program it was the intention to utilize and feature Lake Michigan and the lagoons as much as possible. The Aquarium Restaurant is an under­water eating place suitable only for Fair or amusement grounds where ex­pense is no particular object, providing a unique result is obtained. It was designed to be built across a lagoon where it forms a dam, for the water to flow over.1” The building consists of a triangular shaped aquarium in the center with a restaurant to each side of the aquarium and joining it with the shores.

The entrance to the aquarium is by a dock at the lower water level.1’6 This entrance dock is reached by boats from either shore.1’7 A trip through the aquarium is planned to give the visitor the feeling of having made a journey to the bottom of the sea. The interior walls, floor and ceiling are glass tanks containing underwater plant and animal life. Thus the tanks are above, be­low, and on all sides. The arrangement creates the illusion that any one pass­ing through the building, instead of looking at tanks containing fish, is himself within the tank with the fish on the outside all around him.

The passage between the tanks is a circuitous maze1’7 that gradually ramps downward. All illumination comes through the water. Near the surface, this

is the warm color of water permeated with sunlight. Gradually, as one de­scends, the color deepens, and deep-sea life appears in place of shallow-water creatures.

The exterior walls of the building, over which falls a curtain of water, are illuminated by invisible lights underneath the water. On the roof of the aquarium is an open-air terrace (one hundred feet at its widest point and ninety-five feet on its longest axis) with a seating capacity for one hundred and twenty persons. It is reached from the restaurant and has its own pantry unit. Water flows underneath its glass floor and in a curtain over the walls of the terrace.

The restaurant is in two sections, one on either side of the aquarium.157 The ceiling is glass over which two inches of water flows; the wall along the front elevation is glass. The six-foot overhang of the roof throws the water out from the window in a thin, semi-transparent curtain.156

Another structure, having novelty of a different sort, is The Aerial Res­taurant.”* A casual observer inspecting these designs might assume that in its engineering and structural features, it is impractical. The facts are other­wise. While the shaft is thin in proportion to the whole mass, it is actu­ally thirty-two feet wide. Though the upper structure appears to have more weight on one side than the other, the segments of the three cantilevered levels are actually so arranged that they balance on each side of the center with sufficient leeway to take care of all live loads.

The chief reason that brought about the designing of The Аёпа1 Restau­rant was its novelty to attract a repeat audience of Chicagoans themselves to the Exposition grounds. Another condition was that in the main part of the grounds, where the principal buildings were situated, there was no attractive space that could be set aside for large restaurants. Though this tower rises in the air over twenty stories, it does not use the ground space that would ordi-

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buildings proposed for the Fair. The Aerial Restaurant offers an observation platform with clear vision for miles around. It looks out over the lake and it looks out over the city. The building’s greatest novelty is that the entire structure slowly revolves, so that during a meal restaurant patrons get two complete panoramic views of the Fair Grounds, the City of Chicago, and Lake Michigan from an elevation of twenty-seven stories. There are three restaurants on three different levels, with a seating capacity of fifteen hun­dred persons.

The entrance, on the ground level, is approached by a series of three cir-

cular terraces with steps.1’* From the top terrace are entrances, protected by a marquee, to three large elevators. Directly under the entrance terrace is the main kitchen, one story high and built above the ground level. For culinary deliveries, a ramped passageway leads to the kitchen. Below the kitchen is housed the heavy mechanism for revolving the upper part of the structure. The central shaft, in addition to three large elevators for patrons, contains nine service elevators. Due to the elevators stopping at only three levels, one hundred and seventy persons can enter or leave the building every five minutes.

Each of the three restaurants has glass walls from floor to ceiling and open – air terraces surrounding them. The first or main restaurant level has a seating capacity of seven hundred,’40 with a dance floor for two hundred and fifty couples and an orchestra space for twelve pieces. Two elevators lead to the foyer directly in front of which is a checkroom. Wide promenades lead from the foyer through the restaurant to three open-air terraces. The second or in­termediate level is devoted solely to light refreshments and drinks at popular prices. It has a seating capacity of five hundred people. The third or top level of the Аёпа1 Restaurant has a seating capacity of two hundred persons with great space and comfort. This is an eating place of an exclusive order, where the best food may be obtained at admittedly high prices.

I know of no restaurant in America or Europe which, to any major extent, resembles these I have described. Cabarets and other entertainments were in­troduced into restaurants some years ago as an added attraction and are now commonplace. I see no reason why architecture should not be utilized as an added attraction for the restaurant, if it can be interesting and so join in the spirit of the occasion.

Reduced in size, the Island Dance Restaurant and the Open-Air Cabaret are both applicable to a roof garden and could be made to furnish gorgeous

diversion. The water in the lagoon for the Island Dance Restaurant would eliminate or reduce the size of the water tank necessary for additional fire protection on top of the building, if it were kept filled the year round. In the not too distant future I anticipate restaurants of this type in our larger cities attracting generous patronage. Up to the present moment, architects and pub­lic alike have shown no initiative or imagination in utilizing their roofs. Uti­lization of roof area will be one of the leading architectural developments of the next few years.

Updated: October 2, 2015 — 4:31 am