Fast Food Versus Health Food
They coexist at Nat., an organic German café by Eins:Eins Architekten
Mairi Beautyman -- Interior Design, 2/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
Turmeric-spiced rice simmered in orange juice or a cassis-elderberry lhassi may not be the first items to come to mind when you think of a fast-food joint. Ditto for a nature-themed design. Yet both of those ingredients went into the recipe for Nat. Fine Bio Food, an organic café in Hamburg, Germany. Nat., short for natural, naturally, is part of a growing assortment of German restaurants offering quick, healthy meals to the lunch crowd.
Transforming an existing restaurant, 4,800 square feet on the ground level of a 1960's building, into an airy white-and-wood setting with fresh green accents, Eins:Eins Architekten took the nature concept with a grain of salt. The ceiling's biomorphic cutouts, illuminated by concealed fluorescent fixtures, might say "clouds" to some—but not to Christoph Roselius and Julian Hillenkamp, the principals of the two-year-old firm. "We weren't thinking clouds, per se. Subtle abstraction prevents the space from becoming a theme park," Roselius explains. Finding workers who could fabricate the shapes, within budget, was "just short of a miracle," Hillenkamp adds. The solution was to hire Sicilian artisans, who flew in their families and an espresso machine. The result is both an ethereal aesthetic element and a functional one: It solves the noise problem created by the oak floorboards.
In addition to the ceiling, the architects made nature references by wrapping structural columns in drywall lacquered dark brown to recall tree trunks, installing a wall of dried moss dyed an extra-vivid chartreuse, and commissioning two backlit photomurals, one of giant dill sprigs and the other of water plants. "We envisioned an open landscape," Roselius says, "which meant we didn't build any new walls, and the existing ones needed to dissolve." Without real dividers, the architects paid particular attention to zones, using different types of furniture to reinforce the identities of the main dining area and the lounge, three steps up. What was sourced represents a mix of European nationalities, thanks to savvy searching on product Web sites, Roselius says: "The coat hangers are from Spain, the table bases are from Italy, the chairs are from Riga, and the bar stools are from the Netherlands."
The architects call the to-go station—basically a ceiling-mounted white-lacquered open cube by the entry—their most spectacular move. "It appears to float, underlining our idea of lightness," Roselius explains. Three flat-screen monitors display the menu, while paper menus and utensils fill slots in the counter. "It makes a tidy impression," Hillenkamp says. The tops of all the tables also have slots for menus and holes for salt and pepper shakers as well as a call button for a server, an idea Nat.'s management is still experimenting with.
Separate tables in the middle of the main dining area offer flexibility for larger parties or functions. Customers looking for something slightly more secluded can pick from the rows of low-backed booths on either side. Cushiest of all are the lounge's six square seating islands. Upholstery throughout is lime-green faux suede, actually polyester. "We really couldn't use a natural fabric," Roselius says. The stain-resistant material that he and Hillenkamp ultimately specified was selected after several tests involving ketchup and red wine.
Photo by Uwe Gaertner.
Christina Härtner: Eins:Eins Architekten. Notholt Lighting De-Sign: Lighting Consultant. L&K Innenausbau; Likoo: Woodwork. Arti Antiche: Drywall Contractor.
From Front Varicor: Counter Material (Takeout Area, Lounge), Tabletop Material (Main Dining). Play Hamburg: Custom Murals (Lounge, Main Dining). Spectrum: Stools. Chair Baltic: Chairs (Main Dining). Arper: Table Bases. Throughout Kvadrat: Cushion Upholstery.