An ethereal sculpture by Ayala Serfaty adds brilliant practicality to a restaurant in Valencia, Spain
Laura Fisher Kaiser -- Interior Design, 3/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
At night, a golden glow emanates from an enormous seashell. As you cross a man-made lake and follow the illumination to its source, you enter a parabolic building whose below-ground level houses a luxurious restaurant surrounded by an aquarium teaming with sea life. Before you hovers a school of luminous jellyfish—or, rather, the silk-covered oblate spheroids of a light sculpture by Ayala Serfaty.
A Tel Aviv designer known for silk lamps and whimsical furniture, Serfaty brings together an organic aesthetic and an appreciation for practicality. It was that combination that led interior designer Francisco Vasquez to ask her firm, Aqua Creations, to find a solution for the circular central space that ultimately became the underground restaurant. The restaurant's building, completed in 2001 by architect Félix Candela, is part of the oceanographic park in the Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias, Santiago Calatrava's project in Valencia, Spain.
Serfaty's mission was to fill the vast double-height atrium, 49 feet in diameter. Her installation needed to convey the mysteriousness of the watery depths—Dale Chihuly's glass "Seaform" sculptures had been a contender—yet also function as a giant light fixture and acoustical dampener. Oh, and one more detail: Nothing could be suspended from the roof shell, because the concrete was too thin.
Serfaty says she immediately envisioned a "school of fish or a group of water lilies, weightless in midair." But how to make them float? British engineering firm Dewhurst Macfarlane and Partners designed a stainless-steel system around a column attached by three cables to the slab that separates the floors. This framework supports Serfaty's 49 silk-covered lamps.
Her piece, "Stand By," also serves as a screen between gawkers above and diners below—all of whom appear to best advantage. "Each sphere gives off a very good light, with no harsh shadows," Serfaty says. "So you look fabulous, and the food looks beautiful."
Aqua Creations, 200 Lexington Avenue, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016; 212-219-9922; aquagallery.com.
FRAMEWORK FABRICATION: MARZORATI RONCHETTI.