Two projects in one, CuyahogaCommunity College’s Hospitality Management Center (HMC) and the adjacent private restaurant Pura Vida (pure life) seek to activate downtown Cleveland’s Public Square with a fresh culinary experience. The project goal was to create a new image for the college via contemporary, forward-looking architecture paired with clean striking interiors that creates an inviting community nexus to celebrate the art of cooking. Interested in finding a balance between the rich memory of the former department store structure and the contemporary aesthetic of the culinary program and restaurant, the design of the separate, but connected spaces embraced the raw nature of the existing space with a legible insertion of new materials, careful lighting and vibrant colors.
A new all-glass storefront celebrates and clearly communicates the activities within–both through its transparency and with four contiguous rear projection video screens that allow viewers on Public Square to be voyeurs in the culinary experience. The rear portion of the lobby houses the theater style demonstration kitchen where professors and celebrity chefs put on an inspiring culinary show. The space is framed by angular wood shells with linear lighting that contrasts the exposed concrete super-structure.
The lobby acts as a direct link between HMC and Pura Vida with a vertical-lift wall that can combine the two spaces for special events. Additional wood and light elements appear further along the central spine of the HMC space and identify key nodes for student/professor interaction outside teaching kitchens, classrooms, offices and a conference center.
Glass walls admit views into the restaurant kitchen allowing the culinary students and visitors to see the instruction process in action. This visual connection enhances the idea of Culinary Theater and demystifies the art of cooking.
HMC spaces were designed specifically to have options for students to collaborate in. The Demonstration Kitchen area is furnished with banquette seating, bar height tables with stools, and large tables to accommodate different sized groups and purposes. Due to the nature of the existing plan, long spaces were capitalized as “pausing” areas and activated with tackable walls, computers for students to check email, and ottomans for a quick rest or meeting spot. A large breakout area, with colorful comfortable lounge furniture allows additional space for students to study snack and gather.
Pura Vida Restaurant borrows many of its design cues from the HMC space, while taking on an intimate texture in the form of imperfect reclaimed wood and flowing topographical scrims. White scrims across the ceiling celebrate the exposed concrete structure above while functioning as a screen for the color-changing LEDs fixtures. The programmed lighting can match the desired moods of the space as it transitions from morning to evening with ranges from a warm, bright morning glow to a cool, active night-club experience.
The scrims morph into a fabric chandelier that dips down over the semi-private dining lounge to create a more intimate VIP area. A metal mesh drapery provides a light separation of space for the VIP lounge, while still allowing the space as a whole to feel open. The lounge also features a custom banquette, weaving together multiple shades of grey fabric that echoes the pattern created with the reclaimed wood featured throughout the space, but notably at the restaurant’s bar.
The bar re-introduces the angular wood shell design from HMC in the form of reclaimed timbers that are perforated by subtle spot lights in a shifted pattern to echo the random locations of the former nail holes inherent in reused wood. Careful detail was paid to the furniture, and its chemistry with the light conditions and material selections. Dining chairs purposefully have clean white backs that allow the color-changing lights to play off of them. Custom cracked glass tabletops also allow colored light to reflect and react within the environment.
Photo Credits: Scott Pease Photograhy; Bialosky + Partners originals