RCR Arquitectes : Restaurant Enigma

Imagine the concept of a gourmet restaurant 700 square meters: you have two weeks! It took more to scare the 2017 winners of the Pritzker Prize, the Catalans of the RCR Arquitectes agency, chosen by the chef Albert Adrià to answer this daunting challenge and to realize his last establishment of Barcelona, ​​Enigma, which takes the continuation of his famous big-brother, elBulli, closed in 2011.

He is one of those families whose name can not be struck by oblivion. The Adrià are among those. In the beginning there was Ferran, the big brother, illustrious starred chef of ElBulli; then the small, Albert, pastry chef, elected, among others, best of his field in 2015 by the English magazine Restaurant. Together, they tint the pots and heat the pianos during 21 years, before the closure of the institution in 2011. The time of emancipation then came for the youngest son, who set up a series of six Barcelona establishments, grouped under the banner elBarri, "the neighborhood" in Catalan. An adventure crowned last February by the delivery of the restaurant Enigma, "the last in date but the first in importance", delivers its leader. More than a name, a concept. More than a concept, an experience. With the help of his eldest son, and after years of maturation, Albert finally delivers his newborn, whom he entrusts the design to the local agency RCR Arquitectes. Why this trio of renowned designers to revisit "a dark room without soul and with poles", as he describes it ironically? Because of the four agencies contacted by the contractor, RCR was the only one to present a watercolor, where the others offered 3D renderings.

"During the first meetings, we never tell the client what their project will be. We prefer to imagine that with him. That's why we used water here, through watercolor, which is for us the closest thing to dreams. " Rafael Aranda, RCR Arquitectes

Outside and inside, it is a dream world that is proposed by the master builders. The mystery reigns from the bevelled corner facade, typical of the district of Eixample imagined by Cerdà in the nineteenth century. Only a few bits of the place are reflected through translucent glass slides with aquatic motifs.


In addition to the spatial design, the plot begins at the stage of booking, when the customer receives a secret code, his precious sesame to access the mysterious refuge. Dinner at Enigma is an initiatory journey of three hours, which is lived with all its senses.
After crossing a curved ramp, 24 fine palates who have reserved their entry ticket five months in advance, are received in small groups to live a unique moment, a labyrinthine epic in five acts and as many spaces separated by clearways translucent glass and illuminated by 2 500 leds arranged in a vaporous ceiling covered with a thin crumpled metal mesh. This journey in a high-flying kitchen begins with the lobby, where they "decontaminate the city"; then the bar, the cellar, the kitchens, the teppanyaki zone - a Japanese cooking plate - which offer a proximity between customers and culinary artists; and finally a central dining area, where the guests, all arrived offline, meet to taste their dishes on furniture also designed by RCR Arquitectes.

In order to bring users' troubles to a climax, RCR Arquitectes has implemented a total approach, drawing both the clothes of the waiters and the pattern of the cladding materials. "We view projects as a whole, not as a sum of different elements," claims Rafael Aranda. Walls, floors and worktops thus have the same starting point: the watercolors made by the winners of the Pritzker Prize, whose lines have been reproduced by the young Spanish brand Neolith on large-scale and high-strength synthetic stone panels , made from mineral raw materials and 100% natural oxide. A basic drawing divided into three boards of 70 by 100 centimeters, which had to be enlarged to fit the ground 700 square meters surface area: "magnified, each pixel was equivalent to 1 square meter! Says Andreas Manero, marketing manager of the brand. A technical challenge brilliantly taken up by the company, which had to, for the occasion, rethink its production process to shape customized panels, then redécoupés in six parts, and in this way recalibrate each time his machine, which therefore never drew the same motif twice. A puzzle of which each piece is unique.

A holistic approach that transports the taste buds and the senses of gourmets.

To learn more, visit the RCR Arquitectes site, Enigma et Neolith

Photographs: Neolith by TheSize

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