Few architects have worked on so many landmark buildings in New York City. To celebrate Rockwell Group's 30th anniversary, Crane.tv sat down with the founder and creative mind of the architecture firm, to talk about four projects that have shaped his career as much as the city.
The firm's projects range across the board, from office buildings, and residential developments to restaurants, which is not surprising given the varied interests of its founder.
The original Nobu opened in 1994 in Tribeca, New York. It was Rockwell's first step into the world of food as well as Chef Nobu Matsuhisa's opening act on New York's competitive restaurant scene. At the heart of the design was extracting the chef's story and adding features, that reflected his food.
To create this experience, Rockwell spent a lot of time with Nobu, learning about his personal history, cooking philosophy and ideas for the restaurant. Just like the chef steered away from traditional Japanese cuisine, the architect mirrored this approach in the design.
Now 20 years on, the restaurant is preparing to leave its Tribeca location for a bigger space in the Wall Street area to open in 2017, and who better to take on the design part than the architect, who has been with Nobu for the past two decades.
Imagination Playground is the project that David Rockwell "is perhaps proudest of".
The idea for the innovative playground was born out of mere parental observations of his children and their play, how they and their peers just made up their own rules, only to again and again.
It was a five-year-development, made from nothing, which is one of the reasons the international success of now over 3000 playgrounds around the world is so gratifying for the architect and designer.
To Rockwell, Imagination Playground was "the purest connection of what [he] found life-giving as a kid, materialised in a way that created a big impact".
The concept of Chef's Club by Food & Wine in New York was on the architects mind for quite some time before it became a reality. It is perhaps one of the projects he is most passionate about and he trusted his intuition when pursuing it. The concept includes a rotating roster of international chefs who take over the kitchen of the eatery for one or two nights in a row.
David Rockwell had developed the idea for so long, that when it began to take shape, "it was like putting on a familiar piece of clothing".
The restaurant is located in the Puck Building in Lower Manhattan and showcases artwork such as 30 sketches of the world's best chefs as well as more unusual pieces like the 300- Pounds Himalayan salt shard.
The main idea was to break down the barrier between the chefs and the guests, so "cooking, performance and dining are one".
The Shinola flagship store in Tribeca was Rockwell's second retail location and an opportunity for the public to experience the Shinola brand story, as told through Rockwell design. "Our way in, was to take the notion of 'American-made'," Rockwell says.
David founded Rockwell Group in 1984, and it went on to become an award winning, cross-disciplinary architecture and design practice, with branches in Madrid and Beijing. With a love for the theatre, appreciation of technology and a highly personal approach to both interior and exterior architecture, to Rockwell, "design was always a way to communicate".
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