February 05, 2013

Lunch Inside the Crystal


Last weekend I went to the c5 restaurant to meet up with my friends for a little fine dining during Winterlicious, Toronto’s restaurant week in February. The restaurant is located inside of Daniel Libeskind’s Michael Lee Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum. As an architecture enthusiast, along with my fellow classmates and guests from Detroit...how could we not go? And how could I not blog about my two loves of Cuisine and Architecture?  This had The Underdog Architecture Student’s Blog written all over it!

To be quite honest, this is a controversial building in Toronto.
Some either hate it, love it, or hate it...but recognize it's strengths as a design.
This was my very first Winterlicious in Toronto for all these years it's been in the city. It was a great time to be with great people having great stories talks and laughs...and yes, great critiques! (from  critiquing the building design to the industrial design of our dining utensils and bowls to the books and movies we have come across). 



For this week's post I thought I would drive home the previous entry paralleling the culinary arts to the design of buildings. This time, it's about the importance of thoughtful and well crafted presentation. 

At the end of the day, your work has to speak for itself - this is quite true when you would be evaluated for a design competition or grade - how much more when a chef has to send out a plate to the table while ensuring quality control (see Hell's Kitchen). The best designs are able to independently convey itself without the student talking beside the project or including essays upon essays to describe the design intent - after all, we're both in a visual field. You have to be able to attract your clients and provide the right emphasis that aligns with your design intent. 

For example, if your design concept is about the transition from walking underground in a cavernous anti-building and it's about the procession that terminates by emerging outside above grade, then an experiential section is a possible means to show your design intent. 

Presenting an idea requires careful editing, by your final years of architecture school you would probably not be told what to include on your design boards or presentation slides - you have to strategically edit and present the work in the right order and with the right emphasis and the right scale. Every drawing, image and graphic has to complement each other and contribute to a greater understanding of a whole.



I'm going to attempt to break apart my desert as an example of presentation is everything and each move has to be purposeful. I had Apple Beignets (an apple fritter/donut type of pastry) garnished with berries and a cream sauce. As my grade 12 Food Preparation teacher mentioned to my class, "You eat with your eyes first." And how much more with architecture - you have to sell a seductive image of your work to grab your client/audience. There are some good points to consider:

Counterpoint/Contrast:
You can see some contrast working here, even when you eat the dish. You have to compliment or contrast two elements to intensify the meaning of those elements or let a concept sing. In this plate, you see the balance between:
- sweet and savoury (you have this not-so-sweet dough that is sweetened by being coated with sugar)
- use of colours (those vibrant rasberries and blackberries contrast the orange of the pastry)
- textures (the liquidy and velvety creme Anglaise, the crunchy dough and apple, the sandy-texture of the cinnamon sugar - all working together)
- crunch and softness
- heavy and light (the lightness of the beignets are emphasized by being raised by the berries at the bottom of the bowl. 

Emphasis:
You have to make your concept or idea shine through. It has to stand out (in this plate, literally). Obviously the apple beignets are plated and stacked one over the other to become the focal point, but also notice how the other aspects of the plate are just used to enhance the attention of the Piéce de Rèsistance. The icing sugar is used sparingly to use the right sweetness to complement the beignets. Cinnamon maple sugar is used to enhance the apple inside the fritter. The berries and creme Anglaise are more of the garnish than the main point of the design of the plate. 

I would like a cup of vanilla ice cream for any fried batter pastry, or even would have opted for more custard creme with the beignets - however you can tell the design intent of the dessert is emphasizing the experience of eating a Beignet. You want that fresh warm crunch and soft pastry when eating into it

For your boards, you have to ensure that your design intent and concept sings, ensure that each piece of your design and the drawings and images you show contribute to the overarching big idea. You don't want to make the message convoluted with unnecessary cheesy graphic design elements, or excessive drawings that serve no point in your design concept (unless asked to).  

Function & Purpose
Every aspect of this plating serves has multiple functions. Just like how your drawings and graphics, and your design intent should be backed up with a couple of reasons of why you did what you did. Some examples of this plate include:
- The berries serve to lift the beignets to cool possibly (since they have to be served right from the fryer...) and prevent it by becoming soggy to preserve that nice donut texture of a crisp crust and soft doughy flesh. Additionally, the berries  prevent the beignets from being soaked by the creme Anglaise that is at the bottom of the bowl. 
- Considering it`s an apple dish and lemon is probably used to prevent the browning of the apples, berries are usually a good pairing for apples and citrus fruits. 
- The cinnamon sugar adds another depth of texture while you're eating the beignet, enhances the apple flavours inside the fritter, and adds that sweetness to the savoury dough.

Counterpoint, Contrast, Emphasis, Function, Purpose - factors to take into account when displaying or presenting your design work.

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