The space under construction was an empty peninsula, all glass and minimalism, protruding over Via Giacosa from the Foundation building; an architectural hybrid undergoing its third renovation in 120 years. All around it, the dust and chaos of the building site hid its aesthetic potential.
“We want the restaurant here; we’re thinking traditional gastronomy, something that evokes Turin, in the historical Agnelli Foundation HQ. It needs to be a contemporary space too, because the Talent Garden will be located here, frequented by geeks, Italians and people from abroad, millennials who grew up with a keyboard in their hands…”
This was the briefing that we pored over for six months before building the most extraordinary and innovative restaurant ever in just 15 days.
There are so many aspects to be told in a single story: the “Gastronomia” and culinary traditions of Italy; the mark of a Michelin-starred chef; a city that has embraced the avant-garde since the early twentieth century; a cultural foundation with an extensive photographic archive; partnership with the La Stampa image archive; a vocation for technology and a public of software-addicted millennials.
Even the name of the project was in constant evolution: first “Archivio Bistrot”, then “Ristorante Giacosa”, then “Giacosa 38” and finally “Gastronomia Torino”. As linear and simple as we wanted the restaurant itself to be.
But what would the restaurant actually be like? Digital self-service screens instead of waiters, food-collection compartments with transparent LCD screen doors just like automated fast-food chains in the States, traditional Italian cuisine and delicacies prepared by our chef.
Our screen doors tell diners a story with images, all signature photos and all of Turin, offering them the gourmet dish that they just ordered via a touch pad or smartphone.
The whole project required contribution from the worlds of architecture, engineering, storytelling, graphic design and artistic direction for a plethora of different tasks including the sensors on the touch-screen counters; the hardware for the food-collection compartments; the software architecture; the interface design; the design of the wall with 16 food-collection compartments and 26 screens; the design of each table; the choice or design of the chairs; the careful choice of each material and finish; the solution to each and every ergonomic problem for distracted or disabled customers; the quality of the photographs and post-production; the video sequence along the entire wall ordered by theme and chromatic palette and the strictly compostable packaging.
Everything had to be invented and specific solutions were found for it all: out-of-proportion objects such as a 3.5 metre natural slate table that took 12 people to carry, copper-coloured metal net walls used as display windows, ad hoc lighting, special paints and certification.
But the most striking feature is the 11 x 3 metre service wall so full of screens that it resembles NASA ground control. Instead of Apollo 11 however, what we see is an elegant series of images: the Mole Antonelliana is glimpsed through an apartment window; children play in the Fountain of Venaria Reale; clients from all over the world select fruit in Porta Palazzo; Filippo Juvarra seduces us from a grainy old photo of the Basilica of Superga; shots from the 1950s and 1960s show young women posing with Fiat Topolino while their contemporary peers enjoy happy hour at the Murazzi.
The real surprise is the service: order from the touch pad at the automated till; see your nickname appear in the queue on the large screen and then on the screen of the food-collection compartment assigned to you, which opens smoothly at the touch of a finger to reveal a cold light worthy of a Kubrick spaceship. The dish you ordered will be presented on a compostable dish, also decorated with images of Turin, for you to take to your table. Lift the lid to find gourmet treats by a Michelin-starred chef at the same price of the usual chips.