Soft Vault

San Francisco, CA

After the opening of the restaurant, its private dining room presented a major problem surrounding the quality of its acoustic environment. The hard surfaces of painted drywall and its full height glass storefront formed a rectangular space of 13’ W x 18’ L x 15’ H and became an echo chamber of sounds resulting in an uncontrollably and incomprehensibly loud noise condition.

We were approached by the chef and owner of the restaurant to find an inexpensive, yet effective solution to the problem while creating a visually compelling and spatially engaging environment.

A groin vault was introduced into the existing space to create a secondary enclosure of sound absorbent. Conventionally, a groin vault is used as a structural element. However, the proposed design borrows the language of the vault to create a soft and light, yet visually thick enclosure – made of multiple layers of polyester organdy fabric. This allows light to partially penetrate and partially reflect as it illuminates the entire environment. Unlike a traditional groin vault which is framed by a cubic volume, “soft vault” is transformed and distorted into a trapezoidal volume – ascending higher as it approaches the room’s entrance and the glass storefront.

This trapezoidal volume with a unique re-interpretation of the groin vault takes advantage of its adjacency to the sidewalk of Downtown San Francisco’s bustling Second Street. “Soft Vault” shifts the orientation of this private dining room outward – engaging its urban scale while allowing the restaurant to fully engage its civic space.

Design Team:
Raveevarn Choksombatchai, Baxter Smith, Mai Kitmungsa, Mariah Smith, Jessica Chen, Yan Huang, Phirak Suon