Mercato by Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Ph: Pedro Pegenaute/Architectural Record
Mercato, a globally inspired rustic Italian restaurant located on the top of a historic Shanghai building, integrates Asian and Western elements to convey a sense of international exchange. The restaurant is designed by Neri&Hu Design Research Office, an interdisciplinary international architectural design practice established by architects Lyndon Neri (B.A. Architecture '87) and Rosanna Hu (B.A. Architecture '90).
Styled with a "farm chic" aesthetic popular in the West, the restaurant evokes a sense of rawness through coarse materials, rough concrete and weathered steel that provide a stark contrast to Shanghai's wealth of high-end dineries designed to appear sleek and lavish. According to Neri, Shanghai is becoming a vibrant, contemporary metropolis. Such a global city requires a global look, and Shanghai-based Neri&Hu have incorporated an infusion of European and American aesthetics in an assortment of previous local projects including Capo, Commune Social and Table No. 1.
"The design is really a play on materials. It's not so much a stylistic thing,” said Neri. Neri&Hu's emphasis on materials and furnishings shines clearly through their attention to detail: technical drawings of old ship parts and suspended glass bottles pay homage to Shanghai's port history. According to Neri, the rugged architecture drove most of the product and graphic design, with the exception of comfortable mid-20th-century-style tables and seating, upholstered in black leather. “We have a distinct advantage within our practice because we do a lot of the product design,” says Neri. “The client didn't have the budget to buy proprietary pieces.”
Mercato aims for a more casual high-end clientele, a decision which translates into the materials and spatial organization of the restaurant. "Mercato needed to be more casual, democratic, and open," explains Neri. A large, open dining area surrounds two islands inspired by market stalls, which bring activity and energy to the main space.
In 2010, Neri&Hu won the Architectural Review Award for Emerging Architecture. Neri&Hu was selected as one of the ten firms for Design Vanguard 2009 by Architectural Record. Prior to starting his own practice, Neri was Director of Projects in Asia and an Associate for Michael Graves & Associates for over 10 years. Hu is a Founding Partner and Creative Executive for Design Republic, and has received the Perspective Award as one of '40 under 40' designers shaping Hong Kong and Greater Chin. Both Neri and Hu are actively involved in architectural education and serve as visiting critics for U.S. design schools, including UC Berkeley and Princeton University.