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A double-layer steel lattice transforms a former residence into a Japanese eatery’s new home in Mexico City
When Mexico City-based architect Michel Rojkind was chosen as one of the Architectural League’s Emerging Voices lecturers in 2010, he already had a lot of work under his belt. His firm, Rojkind Arquitectos, had recently completed Nestlé’s factory and chocolate museum in Querétaro and was beginning work on a 54-story mixed-use tower on Mexico City’s chic Paseo Reforma. But in spite of big-name projects, the architect who started out as a rock-and-roll drummer maintained a connection to the fabrication of his projects, collaborating with local workers and using simple components instead of employing more complicated techniques. “I joke with my Swiss architect friends that I wouldn’t know how to work in Switzerland, where everything is perfect,” he told AN in a May 2010 interview. “You have to figure out ways to make things happen here, and it inspires me.” A testament to that inspiration, Rojkind’s new Tori-Tori restaurant employs a double-layer steel lattice to transform an existing residential structure in Mexico City’s rapidly changing Polanco neighborhood.
Rojkind’s firm worked with industrial designer Héctor Ersawe to plan the new 6,800-square-foot location for Tori-Tori, a popular Japanese eatery and one of many restaurants that moved or expanded into the recently rezoned Polanco area. Though some establishments have opted to simply hang out a shingle advertising their new presence, Rojkind’s team wanted to create an entirely new environment that would tie the restaurant’s interior to the outdoors.
The new steel facade was digitally designed to mimic the vegetation that covers the project’s retaining walls. Outside floor-to-ceiling glass, the grid structure wraps the south and west elevations of the restaurant. It extends from the ground to the roof in a pattern designed to give diners a view of outdoor patios while casting shadows on the interiors depending on the time of day. The facade’s self-supporting layers are made with CNC-cut, thin-gauge steel plates that were welded in place on site and hand-finished by a team of nearly 40 local metalworkers. Slightly offsetting the layers and painting them two tones of gray add to the illusion of movement, and, lest diners forget they are not just enjoying a meal in a neighbor’s lavish courtyard, blue LEDs positioned between interior and exterior layers add a touch of electricity to the air.