Washington, D.C. restaurant Bronze is based in a 1930s building on the city’s H Street — but the story behind the project actually dates even further into the past. As legend has it, back in the 14th century, Alonzo Bronze began traveling the world on a quest to experience other cultures. Eventually, after seven nomadic centuries, his journey led him to settle in the Caribbean, where he now lives among an island community and a flock of wild cranes.
Or at least, that’s the fictional tale that Bronze owner Keem Hughley came up with while envisioning his new venture. Local design studio Drummond Projects then took Hughley’s folklore and ran with it. In the process, they built upon the long legacy of Afrofuturism, an aesthetic that combines elements of African culture and science fiction.
The end result is a 725-square-metre restaurant divided into three levels: Pre-Earth, Earth, and the Crane Room. Each has its own distinct feel, reflecting Bronze’s travels through space and time. In this way, the design also complements executive chef Toya Henry’s menu, which draws on ancestral cooking from the African diaspora but also works in spices, ingredients and contemporary techniques sourced from all over the world.
To accomplish the world-building required for the project, Drummond Projects completed extensive research into other Afrofuturist narratives — including books by sci-fi writer Nnedi Okorafor, as well as Marvel’s Black Panther series. Inspiration pulled from these fantastical reference points was then fused together with other design elements traditional to the African diaspora. The result is a richly layered tapestry that weaves many expressions of Black identity together into a true celebration of culture and community.
Dark wood tones define the first floor, which is characterized by a moody bar area and booth seating upholstered in plush leopard print.
One floor up, the Earth level moves in a brighter, more minimalist direction, accenting white walls with portraits by Nigerian artist Alabi Mayowa that imagine members of Alonzo Bronze’s inner circle.
Adding to the futuristic feel of this dining area, a series of swooping curves form intimate niches that shelter striped bench seating, while gold “lily pad” lights hang from the ceiling like celestial bodies.
The calm ambience continue in the upper Crane Room, which greets diners with a soft medley of yellows and greens. A seating area in front of a solid yellow wall features a long-limbed chandelier that nods to a crane’s graceful silhouette, while the wallpaper pattern in another dining zone nearby overlaps drawings of the birds with lush tree imagery.
Part history lesson, part magical escape, the incredible storytelling behind Bronze’s design turns a night out into an experience for the ages.
At Bronze, Drummond Projects takes diners on a voyage across a rich fantasy world.