Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Boston Bistro Hosts Table Discussion among Architects, Designers

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Boston Bistro Hosts Table Discussion among Architects, Designers

Article excerpt

IT'S a warm Monday night and 25 people have gathered at Hamersley's Bistro in Boston for discussion over a three-course meal.

The topic of conversation is not politics and social issues, high society and the arts, or even food and travel; it is restaurant building and design.

Hamersley's is a good place for such talk. The top-rated bistro in Boston, owned and run by Fiona and Gordon Hamersley, relocated last year to a new space that more than doubles its seating capacity.

The gathering, hosted by the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) in conjunction with Design Times magazine and Shawmut Construction, is part of a series called "Dinner with the Designer." Restaurant owners, designers, and builders answer such questions as: What challenges confront restaurant design? How does good design enliven a meal?

In a city known for its architecture and design enthusiasts, tonight's dinner drew a 50-person waiting list. "Response to the program has been enormous," says Alexandra Lee, director of special projects for BSA. The series continues at other eating establishments through the fall. While most attendees have a professional interest in design, some have come simply to socialize and be educated over a good dinner.

"There's a lot more to designing and constructing a restaurant than most people think," explains Mark Baranski, project development manager for Shawmut Design & Construction in Boston. The way it works - on the simplest level - is that the needs of all the parties coalesce. The restaurant owner, architect, designer, and contractor all work together to create the best-looking, most-functional restaurant - on schedule and within budget, he says, stressing the latter two. "Design is important, but it must be cost-effective too," he says. The fact that the entire team had worked together on the first bistro was a major plus.

Hamersley's moved from its previous location across the street to the Boston Center for the Arts building. The space housed offices and a practice hall for the Boston Ballet. Bright orange walls. Asbestos. Ten little rooms. But many large windows.

Sandra Fairbank, who runs her own design company in Boston, explains to the group that the vision for the restaurant was to have it be a place where diners could leave their technology-intense world and go, say, to the French countryside for a lovely meal. …

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