Enigma in Barcelona by RCR Arquitectes Offers a Glimpse Into the Future of Hospitality Interior Design and Gastronomy
I love interiors with a difference, with a talking point, with something special that is eye-catchingly unique that I haven’t seen before; and Enigma by RCR Arquitectes certainly fits that criteria. The interior is something of almost futuristic beauty while still remaining a sophisticated contemporary space. I’m a bit of a Science Fiction fan so this is one of my favourite interiors that I’ve seen with a futuristic almost Sci-Fi theme to it. If you like pictures, you definitely won’t be disappointed in this post, there’s loads of them…
ENIGMA by RCR Arquitectes
Neolith has revealed one of their most ambitious projects to date. The ENIGMA restaurant has been designed in collaboration with RCR Arquitectes and P.Llimona. The concept for the restaurant space was born with the vision of celebrated Catalan chef Albert Adrià, who set out to create an “enigmatic” restaurant that reflects his gastronomy and his career. Albert Adrià and his brother Ferran Adrià are responsible for transforming the iconic El Bulli restaurant into the culinary foundation and have embarked on many more projects since, including; tapas bar Tickets and Bar 41 in Barcelona. ENIGMA, described as a “culinary amusement park” represents the newest brainchild of the Adrià brothers’ dialogue exploring the combination and intersection of food and design.
Adria’s concept vision became a reality when Pritzker Prize winners RCR Arquitectes, together with P.Llimona, produced their idea of the design in watercolour paints and opted to give the space a new life with the help of Neolith’s Sintered Stone. Through an incredibly creative, cooperative and close collaboration, as well as the additioanl experience and technical skills of Neolith, the enigmatically beautiful, almost futuristic atmospheric interior of ENIGMA was created.
Having developed the design proposal for over three years, Adrià had to ensure the perfect result for his enigmatic restaurant concept. Well renouned for exciting experimental cuisine and interesting surprising menus, the chef desired to create an stunning yet engaging environment to captivate his each and every diner. Adrìa’s unique cooking style and exciting menu is strongly influenced by its surroundings, and Adrià explained that the interior must reflect those values…
“The type of cuisine we make is determined by space. If we were, for example, surrounded by nature, we would cook completely different dishes.”
ENIGMA: From Concept to Reality
The critical moment in terms of interior design came when RCR Arquitectes + P.Llimona produced a watercolour painting on 3 different types of paper in A2 format. These beautiful paintings then had to be replicated into reality. ENIGMA became a design project with unprecedented technical complexity for Neolith, which marked a new and exiting turning point in the history of the Neolith. Neolith Product Designer Carlos Garcia explains:
“We had to extend the original design, all the time trying not to lose the definition quality offered by the original drawing. Each pixel was equal to two meters of final floor.”
Through research and development, Neolith developed the technology to create the design of the interior boards, producing a perfect replica of the watercolour paintings. Once it had been achieved, the exact colour needed to be matched to the original bluish and greenish hues, which are quite unusual tones in the manufacture of their Sintered Stones.
The intensity of the colours had to complement and tie in with the rest of the interior materials and decorations of the restaurant to achieve a unified atmosphere and environment that would completely immerse the diners in its interior space. Then using the NDD (Neolith Digital Design) Print Decoration Technology, the initial interior design concept from architects was matched.
In addition to the colour, the architects specified that all of the boards should have an irregular texture. The River-washed finish was selected because of its rugged texture, high relief and depth of the material, but it also added a beautiful subtle sheen to the boards. Here, Neolith achieved another first for the company and this particular finish by combining both effects on a single surface. This was a new challenge that additionally increased the technical complexity of the final design and finish.
The floor surface of the restaurant presented the greatest challenge because of its uneven design. Each of the tables forming into the pavement flooring are unique and were formed together like a puzzle like formation in order to create fluidity and represent the watercolour painting across the entire floor and interior space of the restaurant. To achieve this, Neolith fitted the entire floor in its workshops and took aerial photographs with a drone to get a complete perspective of the design from above, ensuring colour matching and that there were no errors or different shades or tones in each of the pieces of stone.
RCR Arquitectes + P.Llimona have designed a very organic space full of curves and narrow openings that required the boards to be cut into six thinner pieces; with the thinnest being only 3 centimetres wide. Absolute precision was key to ensuring the design from the watercolour concept painting was accurate. Inspiration was taken from a map to ensure precision and perfection; a grid coordinate system was set up to label each of the pieces to determine their exact position in the construction of the project. This method allowed the builders to easily install each piece on site without a chance of any mistakes, placing each piece together like a huge puzzle.
ENIGMA: The Final Result
Albert Adrià, RCR Arquitectes, and Neolith have been recognised on many occasions, each recipient of very important awards all in their respective industries. Together they have created a project that is truly amazing and special in terms of design, material quality, gastronomy – and surprisingly, also in fashion. Completing the restaurant scene is the ENIGMA staff, whose uniforms have also been designed by RCR Arquitectes + P.Llimona, showing every detail has been carefully considered to bring the whole design together.
“We like the idea that it is an Enigma, which is difficult to explain. It is an enveloping space that melts, disappears, almost a labyrinth. Between materiality and conformation, a whole series of organic movements are created on the route to which we are not accustomed. Shadows, transparencies, a watery, hazy presence.”
Modern Futuristic Interior Design
Being an interior designer and interior architect myself, and admittedly a bit of a Science Fiction lover; I really love this futuristic feeling sophistication and enigmatic atmosphere that the Enigma restaurant creates. And what’s not to love about its stylish, modern restaurant interior design. I can just tell that the design has been meticulously though through and every detail has been fully analysed to create the exact perfect result that Albert Adrià envisioned. And I have to say that the collaboration between RCR Arquitectes and Neolith is design perfection and they have executed Adrià’s concept perfectly. A true example of design genius.
I’m really into looking at restaurant interiors at the moment as you can probably see from some of my more recent blog content. There are just a lot of restaurant interiors that are really captivating me and inspiring me at the moment. Hospitality design has always been something that excites me and interests me, and looking at the ENIGMA restaurant just sparks my interest and excitement further.
Antonia Lowe Interiors offers both commercial and residential interior design Leamington Spa, which includes, bars, restaurants, hotels and retail. So if you have any residential or commercial interior design Leamington Spa projects, or even anywhere within the UK, please feel free to contact me for more information or a chat and I’ll be happy to help. And also, if there’s anything you’d like to see more of in my blog posts, please feel free to contact me or comment below, I’d love to hear from you.