Richard Lundquist trained at the Architectural Association and acquired his mastery of steel
working for Morphosis in the mid-1980s and then for Michele Saee, where he was project designer
on two cutting edge clothing stores. His most ambitious project since setting up his own
office in 1990 is the Chosun Galbee restaurant in Koreatown, a burgeoning immigrant community
west of downtown Los Angeles. For the client it represented a big step up both in size
(790 sq m) and sophistication from her other restaurant a block away, and a daring departure from
the traditional red and gilt of the neighbourhood eateries.
The corner site faces onto a busy commercial thoroughfare and was occupied by a brick building
that Lundquist was commissioned to remodel and extend. When it proved to be unsafe and was torn
down, the architect designed a layered steel and concrete structure within the original footprint,
so avoiding the need for a new permit. An almost unbroken wall of split-face concrete block wraps
around the two street facades, shutting out traffic noise. Nearly everyone enters from the rear car park, and
Lundquist has choreographed a succession of eating and circulation spaces that subtly blur the boundary
between indoors and outdoors.
You enter between 3m-high block walls past and eye-level water garden, under a muscular steel
pergola and between a pair of semi-enclosed banquet rooms to reach the bar and reception area.
The main dining room opens off to the left; ahead is an intimate eating area, screened by a high-backed
bamboo bench. At the front, looking north through high narrow windows, is a long room that
can be subdivided by pull-down mesh blinds to create three spaces for private parties. In its
fragmentation, the restaurant responds to an East Asian fondness for gatherings of family or friends,
but the transparency and honed slate floor that extends through from car park to street line
ties these intimate areas together. Materiality and bold sculptural forms are the design's hallmarks.
The pergola has become the restaurant's signature. Rolled I-beams support four shallow
interwoven arches, each comprising a pair of rolled I-beams spanned by a trellis of vertical steel
slats that will be covered with bougainvillea. The structure was fabricated off-site and delivered
in 13m sections that were hoisted into place by a crane. Two banquet rooms, separated by a
circulation area, have arched vaults of bamboo boards interwoven like the strands of a basket within a
stainless-wrapped steel frame. Walls of the same boards are cut away at top and bottom to
admit air and natural light. Built-in seats are stained and upholstered plywood on a stainless-steel
frame. Aluminium-plate patio chairs have waterproof foam lining. The spacious entry area has a
bamboo reception desk facing a bar and both have tops of curved aluminum plate. Table-top
barbecues are the restaurant's specialty and stainless exhaust vents reach down over every grill,
giving the main dining area a somewhat menacing air.
By Michael Webb from The Architectural Review, June 2002