Soar Spot: RedbirdAuthor:Abigail Stone
Chef Neal Fraser and Amy Knoll Fraser’s Redbird, a Design Dish classic designed by Robert Weimer, is a temple to beauty and bold flavor
When it comes to a special occasion restaurant, whether the celebration is TGIF or a multi-year anniversary, there are few places in Los Angeles that beat the beauty and majesty of Redbird. Located in downtown Los Angeles, designer Robert Weimer and Amy Knoll Fraser, transformed The Cathedral of St. Vibiana, and its adjoining rectory, into a dramatic spot that turns a meal into an event.
“Neal and Amy take an eclectic approach to both the food and design of their restaurants,” says Weimer, who’d worked on Grace and BLD, the couple’s previous restaurants, “I had a clear understanding of their vision; a warm, inviting, lively vibe that feels cosmopolitan and casually elegant.” It would also need to support Fraser’s luxurious modern American cuisine: bold and big, meat-forward and wine-brash, tempered by touches of salt and sour and smoke.
Rather than compete with the innate grandeur of the existing space, Weimer and Fraser played with simple, modern forms that complement it. “We wanted to let the original, beautiful architecture of the rectory [which forms the basis of the restaurant] stand out and maintain its integrity,” says Weimer, “The best way to do that was to contrast it with the new additions. The existing building has thick massive walls and rough surfaces with soft edges; it has the weight of history. The new, inserted pieces play off of that with simple forms, crisp edges, and floating soffits.”
Challenges immediately presented themselves: the building, with its one-foot thick concrete walls, could not be altered and the Frasers wanted the indoor and outdoor experiences of the restaurant to feel similar. “Amy’s idea for the indoor/outdoor bar was a smart way to achieve that, and very successful,” say Weimer, “They also wanted a retractable roof or covering for the courtyard so it could be used year-round. Amy also requested a grey floor. We used a tile pattern found in the original entry but blew it up to a much larger scale and had it fabricated using custom concrete tiles.” Though the solutions seem simple, the transformation took close to a half decade to perform.
Weimer ticks off the list of accomplishments: “We restored the original painted ceiling and extended it throughout the lounge area; we used the motifs found in the painted patterns in the cathedral to create new patterns and textures, like the walnut laser-cut interlocking circles on the face of the bar; we let the new architecture take a back seat to the historic architecture and create a neutral backdrop for the colorful furniture and painted patterns; the new steel structure in the courtyard stands free of the walls and supports the retracting awning roof and mechanical systems; and, the indoor/outdoor bar, host stand, and service stations are simple geometries clad in walnut and marble.” Custom artwork by LA-based artists including Adam Silverman, Tanya Aguiñiga, Nancy Baker Cahill, Joe Davidson and Chris Corsmeier, can be found throughout the space.
The result of this effort still dazzles five year after the restaurant’s opening. “The space feels both intimate and grand, familial and formal” says Weimer, “The Frasers commitment to service has been integral to that success. And Angelenos don’t often get to connect with our past, so I think the sense of history adds to the experience.”
Redbird, 114 East 2nd Street, Los Angeles 90012, 213.788.1191