Restaurant owners Robert Meyers and Jim Reiman travel the globe to gather ideas for their restaurants. So when Dartmouth College approached them about opening a restaurant in its Centerra Marketplace, a comprehensive mixed-use business park intended to enhance the college community around Lebanon and Hanover, N.H., they knew they wanted to feature Asian food.
To create the setting for the restaurant, the owners sought innovative materials. "We wanted to use exposed concrete with carpeting," Meyers says. "We wanted to use metals. We didn't mind looking at an industrial-type ceiling, but we wanted to do something different with the space. We wanted simple, clean lines."
In an effort to translate that feeling into Monsoon, their Asian bistro and satay bar, they turned to architect Paul Lukez of Somerville, Mass.
"We had a sense that they were looking for something unique," Lukez recalls. "We did six or seven collage panels that dealt with different themes and ideas, whether it was how light bounced off different surfaces, the materials that might be used, the type of construction, the architectural language or the place settings. From that we got an idea of what they responded to."
Using their responses, Lukez developed three different schemes. "They went for the most dynamic one," he says. "We knew right away that this was going to be a good project."
Although the restaurant incorporates a variety of design materials, most of them were not difficult to find.
"A lot of the (materials) we used are stock items you can get at your local Home Depot. We try to put everything together in an unusual way," Lukez says. "(The restaurant has) a mottled green tinted concrete floor that's very lush, intended to recall the jungles of Southeast Asia. There's copper with a scratched black powder coating."
Monsoon is essentially designed as a theater. "The lighting changes throughout the day in very subtle ways," Lukez says. "It bounces off the underside of the curved surfaces (of the ceiling, which represents clouds). Because of the gunmetal-colored surface, the light constantly changes depending on the angle from which you approach it. It almost shimmers."
Producing that effect required the talents of lighting designer Michael Eberle of Boston-based Chimera Designed Lighting and Lighting Design. Eberle designed the lighting to interact with the anodized aluminum ceiling panels, manufactured by Boston-based USG Interiors.
"There are lots of surfaces and different planes," Eberle says. "That implies lots of levels of light. The lights in the cloud-like (ceiling) panels are timed over 45 minutes to slowly fade in and out of different scenes, shadows and non-shadows. You can set different fade rates through a sequencer and a series of graphic eyes. It's not dissimilar to lying on a beach and having a cloud go by."
The Diamondflex Curvatura ceiling system, introduced by USG three years ago, is ideal for this sensation because it allows for lighting above and below. The 2-by-2-foot flexible, pre-curved panels, perforated in a diamond pattern, are available in 36 parts and unlimited color choices.
"Monsoon is a very good application because of the emphasis on lighting," says Sandy Mulkerns of USG. "Although it's all the same panel, sometimes it looks very metallic and other times it looks sheer. That's a function of the lighting, the panel and the viewing angle."
The restaurant design is outstanding, Meyers says, and has gotten a great reception from the public. "For what we spent it's pretty amazing what we came up with."