Wanting to create a frozen and enigmatic restaurant project, renowned Catalan chef Albert Adriá opened the doors to his Barcelona, Spain-based “culinary amusement park” named Enigma. His vision took shape when 2017 Pritzker Prize winners RCR Arquitectes in colaburation with P.Llimona drew their design idea in watercolors and decided to bring it to life with the help of Neolith by TheSize.
Having worked on the design proposal for three years, Adriá wanted to ensure the perfect outcome for his passion project. Chef Adriá is well-known for his experimental cuisine and surprising menus, the chef wanted to create an immersive environment to captivate his guests. “The type of cuisine we make is determined by space,” said Adriá. “If we were for example surrounded by nature, we would cook entirely different dishes.”
The pivotal moment in terms of design came when RCR and P.Llimonsa drew a watercolor painting in the size of two A3 papers, which has to be applied to the floors, walls, bathrooms, kitchen worktops cabinetry and air extractions systems. However, a watercolor design had never been done on sintered stone before, thus posing a challenge. “We had to expand the original design, all the while trying to not lose the quality of definition offered by the original drawing,” said Carlos Garcia, product designer at TheSize. “Each pixel was equal to 2 meters of final floor.” Through research and development, Neolith developed the technology to re-create the design onto slabs, producing a perfect replica of the drawing.
Once that was achieved, an exact color match had to be sourced, as the required green and blue tones are unusual hues for sintered stone surfaces. The intensity of the colors had to fit in with the other materials and decorations throughout the restaurant to achieve a unified environment, fully submerging diners. Using Neolith’s proprietary digital printing decoration technology, the architect’s design brief was fully met.
The architects wanted every slab to have irregular texture like Neolith’s Riverwashed, but with a subtle shine to provide a multisensory allure. “Neolith is a contemporary material with many properties,” said RCR. “We have been so surprised by its possibilities that we are now using it for other projects.” A total of 150 slabs were used on the project.
Because of its sheer size, the floor presented the biggest challenge. Each slab is unique and had to be perfectly put together in order to deliver a continuous design. Neolith initially installed the entire floor off-site and used a drone to take images from above, thus ensuring that there were no inconsistencies. RCR Arquitectes and P.Llimona designed an organic space full of curves and narrow aisles that required the slabs to be cut down into six smaller pieces — the smallest being only 3 cm wide. Absolute precision was key to guarantee the uniformity of the watercolor design.
Taking inspiration from a map, a coordinate system was put into place, uniquely labeling every single slab to know its exact position in the project. This way, the installers on location were able to piece the interior together like a puzzle. The restaurant opened January 2017, 15 months after the start of the installation.
Architect: RCR Arquitectes/P.Llimona