Dark wood. Fine leather. Shiny hits of bling. Chase Hospitality Group’s wish list for their latest Toronto venture, Arthur’s Restaurant, initially included all of the staple ingredients for a traditional steakhouse. But rather than just emulating an old country club, the group’s design team, gh3*, sought to combine this time-honoured palette with the more modern, geometric character of the restaurant’s setting, an octagonal podium at the base of a 1970s office tower.
The local architecture firm’s skilful blend of sharp angles and suave sophistication is epitomized by the project’s showpiece: an eight-sided, nearly 12.5-metre-wide wood and bronze ceiling sculpture. Impressively, this gemlike construct also integrates sprinklers, speakers and spotlights – all the while looking as seamless as a cut-crystal tumbler.
Credit for the design’s clean millwork goes to Unique Store Fixtures, which created 265 individual pieces using Tabu’s pre-dyed Italian oak veneer and assembled them into 24 sections (after first creating a full-scale mock-up with particle board). “Software took us so far,” explains Marco Corrente, the fabrication studio’s vice president. “But it’s difficult to model compound angles, so it was necessary to stage it so we could fine-tune it.”
To keep screws out of sight, the components were internally mitred together in the shop. These were then moved on site and raised into place one at a time to form the eight triangular clusters of three subsections, outfitted with the necessary pipes and wires and attached to one another by hidden custom brackets. The entire four-tonne creation is suspended by an engineered Unistrut system of threaded rods that attach to these brackets, allowing for a perimeter reveal accentuated by moody cove lighting while still preventing the structure from swaying.
At its core, the ceiling opens up to a large void encased within a vaulted bronze volume hung from a chandelier lift to allow easy access to the mechanical units above. By sloping down toward this central element, with its tessellated pattern growing increasingly dense in its inner rings, the structure introduces a sense of intimacy in the soaring dining room. “People always say that it’s the edges of a restaurant that feel cozy,” says Shawna Seligman, an intern architect at gh3*. “This brings that feeling to the centre banquettes, which usually feel too exposed.”
And while these tufted banquettes’ mustard yellow leather may catch the eye, furniture is kept to the same low height to keep most of the attention on the one-of-a-kind wonder above, a rare sight indeed.