ChoSun Galbee Restaurant Studio / RCL

Project Team:   Sookja Lee,   David Takacs
Structural Engineer:   Paul Franceschi
Photographs:   Benny Chan,   Mark Luthringer,   Deborah Bird

In 2005 ChoSun Galbee was recognized by the American Institute of Architects as one of the 10 best restaurants in Los Angeles.

View publications:     Architectural Record,     The Architectural Review,     Town & Country,     Cool Restaurants Los Angeles,     Los Angeles Architecture & Design,     Space & Design,     Hospitality Design

View additional photographs and description:     Design and construction process

The owner, Kyong M. Ji, a well-known restauranteur in the Korean community, owned two restaurants before opening ChoSun Galbee with her husband who is the chef. This time she wanted to create a venue with a strong design presence that would differentiate itself from the slew of eateries in the Koreatown section of L.A. The site itself was a challenge: a corner lot on busy four-lane Olympic Boulevard noted for a cacophony of noise and visual clutter. Mrs Ji wanted the restaurant to be a soothing oasis seating about 250 people, with private dining rooms for large groups of families or business people. Her lighting designer, Yoomi Yoon, recommended Lundquist, a former architecture professor of hers, who had worked previously for both Morphosis and Michele Saee, before opening his own office in 1990.

Originally the restaurant was to occupy a renovated brick storefront building. Once the design was under way, however, it became clear that this building had structural problems. So Lundquist replaced it with an economical, low-key, concrete-block structure, while adding more formally active spaces at the rear, where he could place the entrance adjacent to parking for cars.

Guests arriving at the rear enter the restaurant along a path that skims by an outdoor dining patio framed by a steel pergola, which is planted with lush vegitation that blocks the view of the cars. The pergola is created from rolled I-beams employed as both curved columns and flying arches, and it carries a trellis of steel fins covered by thick vines of bougainvellea.

Immediatly inside the restaurant, two private dining rooms enclosed in basketlike forms of bamboo and steel create a buffer zone between the patio dining area and the restaurant proper. Here, four arches of steel, 4 feet wide and 40 feet long, are placed in a staggered configuration every 20 feet, so that a structure of 80 feet is generated. This formation yields two discrete dining rooms, 20 by 16 feet, with two areas, also 20 by 16 feet, left over for circulation and additional dining. To give the rooms a sense of warmth, Lundquist wrapped the ceiling and screen walls with bamboo.

As guests come into the main section of the restaurant, they find themselves at a central reception area and bar, where aluminum countertops mimic the soft curves of the arches in the outer region. From here they enter the main dining room, which, while it may not have a fancy rolled-steel roof or bamboo-screen walls, has a strong architectonic quality by virtue of the cluster of stainless-steel hoods placed over the dining tables. The suspended rectilinear volumes for venting fumes and the banquette seating help subdivide the group of dining tables with barbecue grills into semiprivate alcoves.

A bank of private dining rooms partitioned by plastic mesh screens runs along the perimeter (Olympic Boulevard) wall to accommodate parties of 10 or larger groups of 30 or more. Another room with five tables provides a quasi-private space for diners in the curved corner of the building.

All this interior activity is not very visible from the street, along Olympic Boulevard. Here the facade is quite opaque, with the exception of three high windows and creeping fig planting, which offers, as Lundquist puts it, "an architectural surface."

By Suzanne Stephens from Architectural Record, November 2002