The recently opened Forager Tasting Room & Eatery, the newest edition to downtown San Jose’s fast-evolving SoFA District, provided the perfect space to host Dine & Design, the latest Content LAB event. Pairing food options from Tacolicious, Michi, Forager, Origins Juicery, and RawDaddy with the design expertise from advisers at Gensler, guests designed four restaurant concepts, transforming Forager’s open floor plan into four distinct dining areas. Once design concepts were finalized, all participants had a chance to dine in each of these newly-formed spaces.
Content’s Cultivator, Daniel Garcia, kicked off the event with a brief introduction before welcoming Natalie Engels from architecture design firm Gensler. She explained the work Gensler does and provided some clarification about interior design. As she outlined, interior design isn’t simply choosing color palettes and matching pillows; rather, it’s a conscious effort to help a space best fulfill its stated purpose. In breakouts with other Gensler reps, the designers shared that their job is much more technical than people tend to believe.
Breaking out into four groups, participants were prompted to choose an aesthetic related to four components of the dining experience: the arrival, the wait, the prep, and the meal. To build these elements, they could choose from various backdrops, color cards, textured samples, and reference photos. Photos and colors were pinned to a black board outlining the four elements to design for, and various materials were matched within a white box to emulate the space’s proposed palette and textural combinations.
Given only 40 minutes to outline a concept based on a handful of guidelines related to the space’s proposed menu, atmosphere, and aesthetic, participants quickly got to work, selecting various reference materials and coming together to refine their vision. In the end, all four projects proved quite thoughtful given the quick turnaround.
A concept for an intimate sushi restaurant started with swaths of fuchsia and black accents before welcoming diners into a more limited color palette that paired light wood with granite and hints of jute. A new American food concept with an urban feel threw a splash of yellow to complement grey tones. As highlighted in their “wait” and “prep” sections, this group aimed to bring elements of the city into their space.
Concept three, which highlighted organic foods and juices, sought a return to mother nature. Flora elements adorned their tables, complementing an earthy palette displaying various greens and browns that helped their hints of orange truly pop. The fourth, which sought to provide a welcoming, cultural take on a street taco concept, had the most vibrant color scheme, its walls awash with a bouquet of light floral tones. As their card read, they worked to create a space that felt amicable and good-humored.
Even with just this limited opportunity to step into the shoes of a designer, guests learned that the design process can be far more intentional and mission-driven than they may have first thought. Although only sketches, these four projects proved how deep design can go in articulating a client’s vision for what people are able to experience within a space.
Written by Brandon E. Roos
Photography by Christina Olivas