Playing Samba in a Piano

Playing Samba in a Piano

Lights were iinspired by the kite riddled skies above Rocinha.

The new Cabana restaurant near London's West End. (Courtesy John Carey)

Just a stone’s throw from the British Museum, Renzo Piano‘s Central Saint Giles complex seems to have been overshadowed by the excitement around his Shard of Glass rising in the Southwark section of London. But as the Shard pierces the skyline, the year old St. Giles has begun to find its own footing. Last month, the 500,000 square foot complex brought a bit of bossa nova to this West End outpost.  Cabana, a restaurant designed by Alex Michaelis of Michaelis Boyd, plays well with Piano’s citrus colored facades and brings a dash Brazilian spice to the quiet courtyard.

The candy-colored facade of Renzo Piano's Central St. Giles. (Stoelker/AN)

Under pre-millenial circumstances, a candy-colored confection rising in the in the heart of the London might garner a sour comment from a certain HRH. But Piano’s ceramic facades made it through the planning process just fine, thank you. The literal heart of the design is the contrasting gray courtyard, punctuated with a single red sculpture. Cafes were intended to add to the palette, but only a few have opened since the building was completed in 2010. Cabana sits within this attractively fractured space, which springs open from a series of sharply angled facades that respond to incongruity of the streets that bind the site.

The jeans banquettes are made by Recicla Jeans, a company employing women in an impoverished Sao Paulo neighborhood. (Courtesy John Carey)

The restaurant sports a few socially conscious design gestures. The most noticeable is the jeans banquettes fabricated by Recicla Jeans. Recicla educates and employees more than 800 women in a rough area of Sao Paulo. In another nod to the restaurant’s origins, the owners wanted to support the traditional craft of fly-postering, the ubiquitous posters found on buildings throughout Sao Paulo during Carnival. The team sourced the family-owned and operated Grafica Fidalga to create a continuous backdrop of woodcut type for the walls.

Lights were inspired by the kite-strewn skies above Rocinha. (Courtesy John Carey)

Other details used throughout the space hint at the inexpensive, the innovative, and the fun–all elements one might expect to find in Brazil. But here, in the heart of one of the world’s wealthiest cities, it also speaks to a level awareness–important when sharing cultures.

Colorful PVC tubes for lighting meander down a stairwell. (Stoelker/AN)

The facilities are lit by half-mirror bulbs accessorized with Slinkies. (Stoelker/AN)

Detail of the St. Giles courtyard.