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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. 

At Washington restaurant Bronze, a screen sections off one dark and moody dining area from another zone featuring a tree in front of a golden wall.

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.

At Washington restaurant Bronze a tree sits in a golden nook with a tall tubular lamp in front of it.
A black dining table sits on a floor featuring tiles with a celestial pattern.

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.

Bottles of liquor sit in glowing golden niches at the bar in Washington restaurant Bronze.

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.

A curved bench upholstered in leopard print fabric sits in a corner area in front of a brick wall painted black. A John Coltrane poster hangs above.

Dark wood tones define the first floor, which is characterized by a moody bar area and booth seating upholstered in plush leopard print.

Five portraits painted in an Afrofuturism style are hung on white walls surrounding dining tables in a corner of Washington restaurant Bronze.

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.

A series of golden lights that look like crinkled lily pads hang in a double-height dining room in Washington restaurant Bronze.
Curved walls create a sheltered niche for bench seating. Crinkled golden lights hang above.

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.

A grid of black steel bars holds spotlights above a series of dining tables. The back bench is upholstered green and the wall is painted yellow. An oval-shaped cutout in the walls looks out to the double-height dining room in front.
Dining tables sit in front of a wall featuring wallpaper with crane and tree imagery.

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.

A curved wall niche shelters dining tables. Two glowing orb-shaped spotlights are mounted inside the green-painted niche.

Part history lesson, part magical escape, the incredible storytelling behind Bronze’s design turns a night out into an experience for the ages.

A D.C. Restaurant Explores Afrofuturist Design

At Bronze, Drummond Projects takes diners on a voyage across a rich fantasy world.

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