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French Laundry

Project Team: Snøhetta & Envelope A+D

SQ footage: 6000 SF
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Project Manager: Mike Mathison
Estimator: Rick Grossmann
Superintendent: Bill Neufeld

Choreographing A Better Kitchen
While Snøhetta actually had no previous experience designing Michelin-rated kitchens, Thomas Keller tapped the firm for the job because of its urban design work in Times Square, where pedestrians, bikers, and drivers intersect in one surprisingly lovely space. "He wondered if we could bring that [crowd control] into kitchen," explains Snøhetta Partner Craig Dykers. "Kitchens are crowded and can be intense, but they need to stay crowded, because the intimacy is important to the work. It’s counterintuitive, but the more space you create, the less positive and creative a kitchen is."

So the firm's designers embedded themselves in French Laundry’s kitchen, studying cooking workflows and diagramming what Dykers calls "the choreography of the kitchen." From this observational study, they generated a few small but important interventions.

First, the ceiling. It’s not flat, but a carefully curved, injection-molded concrete, crafted to tackle the problem of kitchen acoustics. Since chefs speak to waiters coming in and out of the kitchen, conversation moves forward, one-way through the room, meaning the chefs in the back can’t always hear the chefs in the front. (It’s that same problem you have in a car, where the people in the back can’t hear the conversation in the front.) But this new ceiling channels sound front-to-back, keeping everyone on the same page.  

to read more about the project see FastCompany's article

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