|Project Name||Chapel Bar||Posted in||Bars, Design, Interior Design||Location||
275 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10010United States
Taking over a former 19th-century church on Park Avenue in New York’s Flatiron district, the recently opened Chapel Bar is the ideal venue to inaugurate the city’s post-pandemic night life — created by Swedish photography museum Fotografiska and design-led private work and social space NeueHouse, the members-only bar and lounge combines a speakeasy discreteness with a meditative solemnity and a sense of community, sought after qualities in the aftermath of a major health crisis. Add in the cultural cachet of Fotografiska, whose New York outpost sits right next door, the sulky, jewel-toned interiors by acclaimed design practice Roman and Williams, and an eclectically curated menu of signature cocktails and rare spirits, and you get an idea of Chapel Bar’s unique appeal.
Built in the 1860s in the Gothic revival style by James Renwick Jr., the architect who designed St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the brownstone landmark only served as a church for a few years before becoming a school for girls. The building’s religious and scholastic history was perfectly aligned with Chapel Bar which was conceived in Josh Wyatt’s words, CEO of Fotografiska and NeueHouse, as “a sanctuary for culture – a place to worship art, photography, fashion and music in a chic setting, surrounded by creative and curious individuals”.
Refurbished by architecture practice CetraRuddy, the team behind the renovation of the adjoining Church Missions House (Fotografiska’s New York venue which opened its doors to the public in December 2019), the former church has been transformed into an intimate, seductive venue whose sumptuous interiors belie a monastic sensibility. Interior designers Roman and Williams, who were also responsible for the museum’s fine dining restaurant Verōnika, combined a warm, earthy colour palette with soft textures and low illumination imbuing the space with a soothing, cozy ambience, sumptuously complemented by velvet banquettes and ottomans in burgundy and green hues. Taking advantage of the building’s imposing height, a magnificent crystal chandelier draws the eye to the building’s elaborately carved roof beams as do the dreamy floral installations by Floratorium.
While the space may no longer be used for religious purposes, it nevertheless still functions as a place of exaltation and atonement of sorts – an imposing bar counter where the altar once stood serves cathartic cocktails and heavenly spirits, a DJ booth that has replaced the organ fills the room with rousing tunes, while the former confessional-turned-VIP-room offers a secluded spot to ruminate. Artworks by acclaimed British artist and photographer Miles Aldridge, including highly stylised photographs from his ‘Immaculée’ series which reference Catholic depictions of female saints in ecstasy, further enhance Chapel Bar’s sensuous take on the building’s religious heritage.
The same applies to the bar menu which boasts premium spirits intimately connected to religious institutions and figures. Examples include chartreuse, a herbaceous liquor that has been produced by Carthusian monks since 1737, Plymouth Gin which was created in Plymouth’s Black Friar’s monastery, and mescal, notoriously smuggled into the United States by a bootlegger disguised as a priest – not to mention an eclectic selection of champagnes thought to have been invented by French monk Dom Pierre Pérignon in 1697. Signature cocktails labelled in Roman numerals include “I”, a modern take on the gin-based prohibition-era Last Word cocktail, and “II”, a mix of yellow chartreuse with Elderflower liqueur, orgeat syrup, vodka and lime juice. Of course, in order to drink such sublime concoctions, you will need to become either a Fotografiska Patron or NeueHouse Member. Then again, joining a religious order always necessitated a strict set of entrance qualifications, making it no different for one founded for “bon vivants, provocateurs and culturati”.