Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rojo Partridge Creek

   Last year the architectural firm i work for began several project for the owners of the Rojo Mexican Bistro restaurants.  Most of our work tends to be remodels of restaurants, and our first two Rojo projects were no exception.  The third, however, was a completely new freestanding structure in the Mall at Partridge Creek, which is in Clinton Township, Michigan.  Now that the project is all wrapped up, let's take a look at the design process from start to finish.
All Images Copyright by Author
   The green field there is the future site of the restaurant, along with a few more feet off to the left of the image.  The mall is set quite far back from an extremely busy road by a vast swath of parking lot.  To the credit of the original design, however, many of the businesses in the mall are oriented towards the interior pedestrian courtyard areas, which helps to mitigate the awfulness of all the surrounding asphalt.  Don't take that as an endorsement of malls, though -- i'd much rather see businesses spring up in downtown areas than on cheap plots of open land that promote sprawl and a reliance on our already excessive driving habits.
   If you happen to live in the Detroit area, you might notice that the design for this project is very similar to the Rojo in St. Clair Shores.  That restaurant was a rework of a building constructed in 1906, but the design process happened concurrently, so there are quite a few visual similarities in the exterior.

    Because i've scaled these images for the blog, the scales are no longer accurate.

   A note before you hurt your brain by looking at the following plan: plan north is true south, which is to say the plan is upside down, and the elevation above is actually the west elevation.  I would happily rotate it for you, but then the text would be wrong, and in any case it makes sense since you enter from the north west (bottom right of plan).
   As much as i look at plans, i still find it hard to really conceptualize what i'm looking at without seeing the space or at least getting some guidance, so i'll try to break this down into manageable morsels of architecture. The rightmost rectangle delineates the outdoor seating, and those dotted squares are umbrellas above.  If you visit the site you'll notice we opted for smaller umbrellas than shown, which was partly a time and cost concern, but also the smaller umbrellas fit under the foliage of the nearby trees better.
   Just to the left of the patio is a three-seasons enclosed seating area with large doors to the main interior.  This effectively creates a secondary seating area to the main dining, which is the area just right of the kitchen.  The dark black columns between the bar area and the main dining space mark the line of a visual separation between spaces.  Two steps along this line further separate the areas and place the dining lower in the restaurant.  To avoid a cave-like feeling, a large hidden skylight washes the north wall (the bottom wall) in light.
   Here's four months of construction in four pictures...

   And the final exterior on the north facade.

    The red fabric swags are a recurring theme in the Rojo spaces.  Let me tell you, it is NOT easy to get these things to hang straight.  In the unfortunately washed-out background you can make out a bit of the original mural commissioned for the restaurant.  Painted in the style of Diego Rivera, the mural depicts the farming and processing of the blue agave cactus into tequila.
    I had to search the strangest places to find these old cruisers -- Craigslist and antiques malls ended up coming through for me, though.  Although the top left bike is painted white, during certain times of day you'd swear it was teal.  The hidden skylight plays funny tricks on the brain, especially with the bright pink backdrop.
    Getting closer to completion here.  Tables and chairs are out, the health inspection passed, and the boxed up kitchenware has been trundled off to the back.  There's only one more picture to go before opening...
   My fingers were calloused beyond belief twisting up all the wire cages for these tequila bottles.  While i constructed this piece, the design (like most everything that goes through our office) belongs to my boss.  I've never been here late enough to see it lit up from below, but i imagine it's much more dramatic than this picture shows.
   That's all for this week!  Check back next Tuesday for more architecture.  If you've been to this Rojo, please comment what you thought of it!


  1. It's hard to imagine such a structure going up on such a small swatch of corner at a mall, but the photos are great. I like those red fabric swags. They add a very dramatic flair. And those bicycles are intriguing. How do they relate to a Mexican theme? I'd like to see those tequila bottles lit up at night. Have to visit this place!

  2. This is great. I love the feel of the space. I appreciate all the design elements, the mural, painted chandeliers, bikes and tequila bottles are all really cool ideas. It seems like a lot for one space, but it looks pretty good in the pictures.

  3. Looks fabulous. The bikes and tequila bottles--at first, so weird--and yet, they totally work!

  4. If the food is as interesting as the decor, I am looking forward to a visit. Nice to see the project from inception to completion.