1320 Castro Street
Designer: Envelope A+D
Very few San Francisco restaurants have room to breathe, and the new Spanish restaurant Contigo, in Noe Valley, is no exception. The long, narrow space measures only 1,366 square feet, and about 14 feet across, so architects Envelope A+D used connections and visual variety to make the space feel bigger, and to take advantage of the context rather than being burdened by it. They linked the busy street outside, the open kitchen (with its hanging pots, pans, and utensils), the dining area, and a beautiful garden (which includes planters to help grow extra ingredients) through a continuous spatial progression that runs from the front to back. Sightlines are clear from one end to the other, with linkages by way of a meandering concrete floor and a gentle ramp, both of which negotiate the restaurant’s subtle change in level and help coordinate the complex task of getting food to everyone without the waiters, or the customers, reaching gridlock. Along the way, there are unique details like reclaimed redwood siding from the 100-year-old building’s original structure; tables made with reclaimed Douglas Fir from a nearby Levi Strauss factory; and stacked wine bottles and delicate saplings that provide an ornamental touch, visible through thin, horizontal windows fronting a wine closet and a small light well. The space is most clearly punctuated by a collection of white, bowl-shaped porcelain lampshades by Roost that float above sustainably harvested slatted oak benches. Dining here is an engaging experience, whether guests are watching the chefs prepare food from the counter or the dining room or enjoying the outdoor breeze wherever they choose to sit.