Opinion by Richard Baird Posted 16 February 2015
Chavez is a contemporary Mexican restaurant located within the Radisson hotel, Austin, Texas. The restaurant has a Southwestern menu created by chef Shawn Cirkiel and inspired by his memories of family road trips taken to the Mexican coast and the cuisine he experienced there. These memories also informed the development of a warmly lit, wood and fabric furnished interior design by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture.
Drawing on Shawn’s childhood and the mood boards of Michael Hsu, design studio Föda modernised the ephemera Shawn would have seen on the road trips of his youth, and distilled these down to six glyphs in six weights in what the studio describe as a Mezo-American fashion. These run across a variety of printed assets which included menus, coasters and business cards, as well as being worked into the interior and across tables by designer Michael Yates.
The identity can essentially be broken down into two contrasting elements, the familiar characters of a serif logotype, and the original characters of the pattern work. The former effectively leverages what is perceived to be formal and broadly associated with quality, tradition and experience within the Western world – well-suited to a good quality dining experience. And the latter, through good form language, observation, reduction, and benefitting from the state’s proximity to the Mexican border, draws on South American culture in a way that is clear in its reference yet avoids the cliched, with an element of creative interpretation founded on a story, presumably drawn out online.
The disparity and contrast of classic logotype and current pattern based on ancient culture serve to enhance both their aesthetic impact and communicative agenda.
The characters of the patterns are well-drawn and although informed by the textiles and pottery of ancient cultures, their geometric, reductive and monolinear quality brings a thoroughly modern sensibility to these and finds a comfortable Mexican and American meeting point that suggests a creative and modern interpretation that underpins the menu. The six weights, and their use as both linear and radial patterns across menus and coasters, secures plenty of visual texture and interest from the repetition of few characters.
The pattern is carefully worked into the interior space and across print, and although it is based on just six characters, has been given a diversity and variation through the use of illumination and shadow across walls and furniture, through ink, cuts and heat treated finishes and a good use of substrate colour, texture, and three-dimensional detail. These choices effectively and cohesively link interior and furniture to a mix of loose assets.
The contrast of culture, cohesively bound by contemporary interpretation, the use of well-established, good quality restaurant cues, the seamless movement of identity between interior space, furnishing and more conventional assets makes for a compelling and distinctive experience, one founded on a very personal journey and that resonates outwards from the menu.