You may have read my frequent criticisms San Francisco’s dining scene. Point is, I think the Bay Area has some of the best restaurants in the world. Period. But while all the focus seems to go on the food and service, the architecture and design are, simply put, boring. I can’t help but wonder why.
Let’s look at retail spaces for a minute. Like the new Prada store in Union Square, finally open after 10 years of deliberation. The original plan to build a 10-story structure designed by renowned architect Rem Koolhaas never left the blueprint. And after all the anticipation, all we got was an unremarkable business office storefront as inventive as the late Sharper Image down the block. And this is Prada we are talking about; the brand that redefined retail experiences first with its NYC SoHo store (designed by Koolhaas and IDEO). Then Los Angeles got its fair share of Prada’s modern architecture with Koolhaas’ Rodeo Drive epicenter. Not to mention Tokyo’s jaw-dropping Prada cathedral designed by Herzog & De Meuron.
So why do most of our restaurants (and our Prada store) have the aesthetic originality of a shoebox? Why can’t we find inspiring designs like NYC’s Lever House and Brasserie in San Francisco?
You can blame the city’s laid-back style, our intransigent building codes or simply the local cost of business. The fact is, in America’s most forward-thinking city, when it comes to restaurant design, our heads are well buried in the sand.