A collaboratively designed Italian restaurant built around a communal dining concept.
La Vicina is an open-ended exercise in developing a concept given rigid space constraints, and conveying the key layout and interactions of the space through drawings. Though each team member was responsible for designing their own 10ft x 10ft portion of the restaurant, we worked to bring our ideas together in a cohesive way.
All collaboration conducted remotely due to COVID.
Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint, figma
Daniel Zhu, Gary Tang, Rachel Legg, Ruoming Xin
Welcome to La Vicina, a small, family-owned Italian restaurant frequented by Pittsburgh locals.
Its warm stucco walls and wooden countertops will make you feel right at home. Diners can sit at their own booth or tables for a more private experience, but they can also eat together at the same table with other diners or watch chefs prepare their food at the extended kitchen and dining area.
As a team, we looked into restaurants whose aesthetics were in-line with our vision. The warmth of organic material like wood appealed to us, and we were also interested in the little decorations that made a place feel "lived in", such as photographs on the wall or collected plates that might suggest a long history.
Since Rachel and I were responsible for the two kitchen areas, we also researched basic safety guidelines and requirements for the appliances.
One of our main challenges was figuring out how we could design a restaurant within a limited space.
We considered where most of the traffic would occur — waiters would need to pick up food, and customers needed to be able to access all seating easily. This required us to revise or scrap some of our initial ideas such has having a bar in addition to the extended kitchen.
Crafting a Communal Experience
I was responsible for designing the restaurant's extended kitchen. To fit with the communal concept, I wanted to create a welcoming space where the cooking process could be transparent and a bit bespoke, giving restaurant-goers a chance to interact with their chefs and build a sense of community.
The extended kitchen is a key area of the restaurant, as it adds extra seating while providing more space to cook and prepare food.
Additionally, all orders pass through the extended kitchen, so there needed to be a designated space for waiters to pick up and drop off dishes.
With little counter space, we decided as a team to use hanging lights attached to ceiling beams. In the extended kitchen, I wanted to put the focus on the diners and their food. I chose to use lights with a simple design that would give off a casual and welcoming feeling.