VIENNA – When one of the best restaurants in the world hosts a design competition, the results are sure to turn heads. Two years ago, Vienna’s Rietbauer family called not only for a complete interior renovation to their restaurant, Steirereck, but for an extension as well. PPAG architects took an immersive approach to their winning entry. ‘We completed in-depth research about food from the perspectives of both the catering staff and the customers by slipping into different roles,’ say the architects. What they found was an opportunity to rethink the traditional, room-full-of-tables building type, and to address the client’s desire for a proposal both ‘timeless and innovative’. ‘In designing the new dining space,’ they say, ‘we worked outward from individual tables.’
In plan the extension reaches, finger-like, from the southeast side of the existing building into the Stadtpark. Each table is given a curved, wooden backdrop and an operable sash window. These single-table units, strung together in molecular strands, create an environment more intimate than a conventional dining room, but also significantly more open to the outdoors.
Viewed from outside, the enormous sash windows are moments of clarity amid a blur of faceted metal, an effect the architects achieved by cladding the building with a ‘slightly reflective metal façade that appears to be coated with dew’. The façade dresses Steirereck’s new building as a dense block of metal, and yet it nearly disappears behind the foggy reflections in its own surface. The extension steals the spotlight from the restaurant’s original building, whose interior underwent a massive renovation also designed by PPAG. On the roof, though, it humbly gives back in the form of fertile ground for fresh ingredients.