Designed by Chicago-based firm Dirk Denison Architects, Terzo Piano is located in the Art Institute of Chicago's Renzo Piano-designed Modern Wing. The restaurant was designed as a changeable canvas with movable pieces and flexible seating arrangements.
The architects therefore were challenged with establishing a contemporary space that provided a complementary atmosphere to the Modern Wing. A recent recipient of a 2010 AIA Chicago Award: Citation of Merit for Interior Architecture, jurors commented, “It’s elevated the cafeteria experience,” and “The whole idea of having art in the dining area is elegant.”
The architects established that the design of the restaurant would continue the experience of the museum into the dining area. To achieve this Dirk Denison Architects added a series of fixed elements, organized as nodes of activity, which stand free from the walls and ceiling of the 8500 sqf space.
Display vitrines house rotating pieces from the Museum’s collection and bring character to the various dining areas, providing loose edges of boundary. The lunch-only schedule of the restaurant and large areas of window also drove the undeniable presence of natural light in the space.
The choice of a predominantly white palette, including resin tabletops which glow when shot with light, was a direct effort to capture the radiance and shadows of the changing presence of sunlight over the course of each day.
A critical aspect of the design was the concept of changeability. The restaurant is lunch- only, but the space doubles as a sophisticated banquet space, available for private evening events. This meant a fluctuating capacity and shifts in décor and character.
Dirk Denison Architects designed a series of movable furniture pieces, which can be reconfigured to define and redefine the overall space. Each element is a run of banquette seating backed by a credenza, suspended on steel frame on casters – and five units also have a removable upper fabric panel which can be grouped to establish a dividing “wall.” The neutral fabric wall finish (installed over sound attenuating material) and predominance of white allow guests to dress the room they see fit.
Design by Dirk Denison Architects
Where: Chicago, USA
Go to: www.terzopianochicago.com
Photographs: Michelle Litvin Photography