20 Union Square West
New York City
Designers: ARO, Scott Kester
This May, after winning a four-year legal battle with public space advocates, The Pavilion Market Café opened in Union Square Park. Housed in a 1930s beaux-arts open-air pavilion, the restaurant operates from May though October and serves up classic dishes whose ingredients are sourced from the Union Square farmers market.
Designed by Scott Kester, the restaurant takes its cues from the pavilion’s beaux arts architecture, adding only a few elements, including bronze-framed globe chandeliers, potted palms, rattan café chairs, wood and stone-topped tables, and a zinc-topped bar. Architecture Research Office (ARO) restored the building itself, which was in an advanced stage of dilapidation at the outset of the project. The architects removed and refurbished much of the limestone and replaced much of the rusting steel structure with new stainless steel members. They also added a new set of stairs to connect the pavilion with the plaza at the north end of Union Square (the project ties into Michael van Valkenburgh Associates’ renewal of that part of the park) and expanded the building’s basement to make room for a kitchen and a Parks Department maintenance facility.
Connie Zhou; P. Chang
The only visibly discernible modern addition is a restroom that ARO added at the east end of the pavilion. It uses the park’s existing ashlar walls, topping them with translucent recycled resin panels and stainless steel grilles. LEDs backlight the resin walls, causing them to glow from within after dark.