Bar Raval

PrizeGold in Interior Design / Hospitality
Firm LocationToronto, Canada
ClientGrant van Gameren

Carefully hewn from what look like unbroken Mobius strips of sinuous mahogany, Bar Raval is a 21st-century reinterpretation of Spanish Art Nouveau that introduces Toronto to the pintxo bar, a cornerstone of social and gastronomic culture in Basque Country. The client charged us with executing an ambitious task: “create an art piece” that would become an enduring culinary and civic institution. We interpreted the directive through two aesthetic lenses: Spanish design and the physicality of the three owners who became our muses. Thus, Raval’s sculptural sentience pays direct homage to tattooed musculature in the context of Art Nouveau tropes and craftsmanship reimagined for contemporary Toronto. The fluid smoothness of the final product belies the rigorous R&D required to achieve the vision. The biggest challenge was identifying a fabrication technique that would not only permit the development of intricate 3D geometries, but also allow for a layer of rich detail to emerge from the fabrication process itself, revealing those inherently textured qualities of wood that are akin to muscle tissue. We synchronized efforts with fabricators and software engineers to rewrite 19 software patches that would enable the customization of toolpaths to execute sculptural engravings on complex 3D surfaces. The result: 9km of serpentine engravings on 75 panels of seamlessly aligned wood. We were also challenged to reimagine the functional aspects of the classic bar as a stage for performance and interaction. Each workstation and vantage point was optimized for efficiency, and every back-of-bar detail was personalized, down to the custom-made drip trays and brass beer pulls, which we enlisted the owners to mould in clay with their hands. Bar Raval’s soft curves foster intimacy, fluidity, and community. A series of 3D “tattooed limbs” enfold patrons in a warm mahogany embrace, and their rippling surfaces encourage patrons to lean into and become part of the woodwork.