Restaurant Development & Design

JUL-AUG 2018

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6 4 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 1 8 MI VIDA MAKES WAVES AT D.C.'S NEW DISTRICT WHARF place. Those kinds of trends come and go, and the last thing we needed was to build an 11,000-square-foot restaurant that we'd have to renovate in a couple of years because it's no longer relevant." Managing Scale Starting with an empty shell, KNEAD brought in D.C.-based architecture and design firm Studio //3877 to help bring the Mi Vida team's vision for a vibrant, contemporary Mexican experience to life in ways that would take full advantage of the space. Occupying a prime two-story corner location with three patios and window walls on three sides, Mi Vida is bold in size, scale and signature design features. But it's also strategically understated. Two requests set the jumping-off point: one, to add a mezzanine with semiprivate dining space between the two floors; and two, to accommodate Reginbogin's idea for a large, indoor Tree of Life inspired by Mexico's traditional Árbol de la Vida. And one reality drove initial archi- tectural decisions: With 23-foot-high ceilings and lots and lots of floor-to-ceil- ing windows, creating scale and intimacy would be a challenge. "Getting the mezzanine in there helped to make sure that we were taking advantage of the maximum square foot- age available, which also meant getting an elevator stop and accessibility on that level," says Dave Tracz, partner at Studio //3877. "Beyond that, the big thing from an architectural standpoint was figuring out how to resolve this 23-foot-high space without making it feel like there are massive walls in front of you when you walk in the door. We took a lot of care on the first floor to make sure that the elements there are smaller in scale or broken down. For instance, the kitchen sticks out a little bit, the private dining room sits back a bit, the restrooms tuck underneath the stair land- ing leading to the mezza- nine. So there's a play on volumes on the first floor, almost like small boxes." The roughly 4,000-square-foot first floor includes a spacious entry, 2,200-square-foot main dining room, 350-square-foot bar and two patios, one on either side of the restaurant's entrance. Back-of-house space takes up another 1,400 square feet. It is home to a large, gas-fired hearth oven, five cooking stations and a full, flight-type dishwasher that can handle volume that easily ex- ceeds 1,300 guests on a typical Saturday. The mezzanine holds the 800-square-foot Hacienda Room, a semiprivate space that overlooks the main entrance and dining area below, as well as offices and storage areas. An ad- ditional 3,000-square-foot dining room, 500-square-foot private dining room, and a second, smaller bar and outdoor patio comprise the top level. That third floor is also home to a second kitchen (1,000 square feet), which provides prep support, a pastry prep area and an always-busy fresh tortilla-making station. Staff uses a dedicated staircase in back to transport food and supplies between the levels. While the multiple levels and variety of eating and drinking areas help to bring the space down to scale, they also provided Reginbogin with the opportunity to tell different stories within the overall design narrative. "I had the three levels, so I decided to cut the narrative into three 'stories' or three different experi- ences through design," he says. "The first floor is more of a modern Mexican aesthetic, the Hacienda Room on the mezzanine pays homage to Spanish colonial Mexico, and the third floor has elements of pre-colonial Mexico, where Mayan and Aztec influences are strong." Blending Subtlety with Sizzle Each level's design serves up a blend of unique, wow-factor elements and subtle, supportive materials and accessories that combine to create the type of nuanced Mexican experience the team envisioned. Top among the wow factors is the 19-foot Tree of Life, positioned on the main level just beyond the host stand. In Culebra Bar Vestibule Stair 1a Service Bar Seating Host Dining Level 1 Floor plans courtesy of Studio //3877

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