The city that never sleeps is notorious for its energy, diversity and relentless nature of thriving culture and innovation. A hot spot for pushing retail and hospitality experiences, the city perpetually finds ways to surprise you and inspire you. As a frequent New York City visitor, I often try to explore new urban veins in order to maintain New York as the "never-ending story." Although every visit seems to have its own element of surprise, there has been an almost constant behavior to the city - its connection to the streetscape.

The essence of any urban sidewalk is (1) directing pedestrian flow, (2) creating a protective division parallel to the street, (3) staging an experience adjacent to the vertical elements. The goal to countless fit-out spaces is to provide a strong connection to the streetscape in order to attract busy pedestrians into the space. A brief pause into the vitrine often provides you with the decision on whether the internal experience is worth your time. Nonetheless, the connection and accessibility to the street are a key factor to the New York fit-out.  Although connecting to the street is a common behavior of many fit-outs,  San Diego-based Sebastian Mariscal Studio, decided to provide an enclave from the busy artery. The Pio Pio restaurant offers the flavor of Latin america and an unorthodox connection to the New york City street.

Located in the Hell's Kitchen district of Manhattan (between 34th and 57th Streets), this gritty neighborhood is historically famous for its rough look, busy underworld and ethnic conflicts that inspired the West Side Story. Far from its once notorious culture, this neighborhood is now home to diverse gastronomic experiences, aspiring actors and a fast changing social fabric.

Since transparency is common and expected, Sebastian Mariscal wanted to lead and transport people to a different place - a Latin American place. The 5,268-square-foot space seems improbable when looking at it from its facade. The L-shaped plan provides an opportunity to divide the space into a progression of smaller experiences until it opens up into the main dining space.  Spatially, each alcove channels your experience to the rich materials, and only as you move through it, does it unfold the the flavors of Latin America and further disconnect you from the New York City street.

Although Peruvian in its gastronomic experience, Sebastian Mariscal wanted to utilize materials that resonate to the Latin American culture and way of life. 

"The original design was for a Mexican Restaurant, but we wanted to connect non literally to the experience of the Latin American Culture. Touching more on emotions in the environment and juxtaposition of space rather than literal cultural elements."

Sebastian Mariscal

The simplicity and humble selection of materials narrates the vernacular architecture in Latin America; concrete, wood and stone. This creates a narrative of contradictions. The wood is Ocotillo Canes that were harvested on a Ranch in Mexico. They were allowed to dry out in the sun for 5 months, then shipped to a kiln in upstate New York, then brought to the site where they debarked by hand. The mixture of contrasting materials sets the tone to a pleasant experience as it amalgamates with the food.

In a sea of steel and glass, the wood and concrete serve a visual and tactile queue to something new, attracting passersby into the space.  Its silent, yet distinct sense of arrival serves as an example of how design can speak without the overt use use of typography and graphics (if done correctly). Abrupt turns within the space are softened by the consistent use of horizontal wood planks that direct you though the space, not only acting as skin but also as a directional wayfinding method. The undertone of the space allows the food, people and conversation to be the focus - a cultural staple of Latin American culture. Pio Pio is a must culinary destination if you are in New York City.

Pio Pio restaurant by Sebastian Mariscal in New York

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