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White Out | Restaurant


In restaurants White Out makes the dining space akin to a gallery space in which food and patrons become art.


White Out may prove to be a reiteration of the White Box. which originated as a “clean envelope” in a 1927 German housing exposition that called for a bare white architecture. White Box as a museum aesthetic began with the influential 1930 Museum of Modern Art exhibition in New York City. White Box has been adapted as a practice in retail and luxury apartment design.1

A White Out interior evokes the same effect as White Box—an “unshadowed, white, clean, artificial” space in which time and reality are suspended. Art work is exhibited without context and in isolation from anything that would detract from it.2 For now, however, the inclusion of furnishings, furniture and white floors makes White Out a distinctive category. White Out is an archetypical practice in resorts and spas and boutique hotels.3 This study establishes White Out as a practice in restaurant design in which materials allow the interior “to recede into the background and direct the focus to the energy and activity within the space.”4

Today’s Restaurant (1979) is an early example of White Out published in a trade magazine. The restaurant served fresh fruits and vegetables and nutritious soups, healthy foods and preparations that were celebrated in a pure white setting of “visual sophistication”.5 White Out coupled with California’s bleached white sunlight, made the food, the occasional floral arrangement and the clientele the only sources of color in the space. If Today’s restaurant evoked wholesomeness, Pomme Fritz (1986) expressed cleanliness. This fast-food restaurant’s all white elements included ceramic tile, plastic laminate and paint. The minimalist envelope lacked tables and chairs, opting instead for stand-up eating counters created with skewed, geometric inverted pyramids.6

NIL bar and restaurant (1998) in Rome, Italy offers another iteration of White Out, one where electrically controlled Soft Walls of fabric become digital canvases for dramatic color variations. A video-projector system floods the interior with moving colors. “The space can become pink or blue; optical or polka dot, water; fire or forest or be covered in images of magnetic waves, television interferences, or images from the biological world.” Video art works by artists Paolo Canevari and Adrian Tranquilli have also been exhibited.7 In one of the four rooms, a continuous round banquette with a padded seat and back, white tables with smooth tops and Bertoia chairs flank the perimeter of the space, leaving the center floor area open for display of the various lighting and color effects. The clientele who sit on the banquette seat with their backs to the fabric soft wall also become part of the canvas.

Architects Dominique Jakob and Brendan MacFarlane called on the practice of White Out to create the Georges (2000) in Paris. Experimenting with spatial forms and volumes, innovative materials and new technologies, the restaurant has become almost as iconic as the building in which it resides, the Pompidou Center designed in 1977 by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogeres. The dining space is populated with amorphously shaped blobs finished in aluminum panels for their exterior and rubber for the interior. The floors are also aluminum panels; both the walls and floors are finished with a smooth wax. The interior walls of each organic pod are brightly colored (light green for the coat check room and restaurants, yellow for a multimedia room, gray for the kitchen and red (Red Room) for the VIP Lounge. Glass topped white tables were paired with injection-molded polyurethane chairs.8
The Restaurant in the Hospes Amerigo Hotel also has a unique setting. The 59-room boutique hotel is located in a former Dominican convent in the center of the old city of Alicante, Spain. The restaurant, designed in 2006 by interior designer Elvira Blanco, is a formal space of thick-walls where one can have a meal with proper service. Lighting of this restaurant is very soft with yellow ambient fixtures. The entire setting is based on the White Out practice; tables and chairs are covered with white cloths to allow color to arise from the dishes and the patrons.9 The chair black legs provide the only accent.

White Out has many expressions, from icy white to creams. The examples of the archetypical practice in upscale restaurants illustrates that designers draw from White Out’s various cultural and architectural connotations—purity, cleanliness, wholesomeness, formality. Like White Box, White Out demands high maintenance to preserve its pristine appearance.10

end notes

  1. 1) Marta R. Méndez, “Theory Studies: Archetypical Practices of Contemporary House Design” (MA Thesis, Cornell University, 2008), 130-33; Leah Scolere, “Theory Studies: Contemporary Retail Design” (MA Thesis, Cornell University, 2004), 28-33; Joori Suh, “Theory Studies: Contemporary Museum and Exhibition Spaces” (MA Thesis, Cornell University, 2003), 94-98.
  2. 2)   Brian O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space (Santa Monica: The Lapis Press, 1986), 14, 15.
  3. 3) For White Box that also has examples of White Out, see Julie Yang, Theory Studies: Contemporary Boutique Hotel Designs” (MA Thesis, Cornell University, 2005), 9-11; White Out in Rachel Goldfarb, “Theory Studies: Archetypical Practices of Contemporary Resort and Spa Design,” M.A. Thesis, Cornell University, 2008), 9-11.
  4. 4) O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube, 15.
  5. 5) Today’s Restaurant [1979] Gary Hutton of Orientations; San Francisco, California in Lois Wagner Green, “Health Food in High Style,” Interior Design 50, no. 6 (June 1979): 164-165.
  6. 6) Pomme Fritz [1986] Rolf und Rolf, Cologne, Germany in John G. Tucker, “Pomme Fritz, Cologne: Rolf und Rolf Create a Playful Geometry in Germany,” Interior Design 57, no.  5 (May 1986): 290-291.
  7. 7) NIL Bar [1998] Claudi Lazzarini and Carl Pickering; Rome, Italy  in Arian Mostaedi, Bars & Restaurants (Barcelona: Carles Broto i Comerma ; Instituto Monsa de Ediciones, S.A., 1999), 94-103.
  8. 8) Georges Restaurant [2000] Dominique Jakob and Brendan MacFarlane; Jacob + MacFarlane; Paris, France in Claire Downey, “Georges Paris,” Architectural Record 188, no. 9 (Sept. 2000): 136.
  9. 9) Restaurant, Amerigo Hotel [2006] Elvira Blanco; Alicante, Spain in Stacy Shoemaker, “Divine Inspiration,” Hospitality Design 28, no. 1 (Jan./Feb. 2006): 67.
  10. 10) Evidence for the use and the chronological sequence of White Out as a restaurant archetype was developed from the following sources: 1970 Today's Restaurant [1979] Gary Hutton of Orientations; San Francisco, CA in Lois Wagner Green, "Health Food in High Style," Interior Design 50, no. 6 (June 1979): 164-165; PhotoCrd: Jamie Ardiles-Arce / 1980 West Hollywood [1985] Diane Gourdal; John G. Tucker, "Good Risk," Interior Design 56, no. 5 (May 1985): 314-315; PhotoCrd: Wayne Shimabukuro; Pomme Fritz [1986] Rolf und Rolf, Cologne, Germany in John G. Tucker, "Pomme Fritz, Cologne: Rolf und Rolf Create a Playful Geometry in Germany," Interior Design 57, no. 5 (May 1986): 290-291; PhotoCrd: Rainer Mader / 1990 NIL Bar [1998] Claudi Lazzarini and Carl Pickering; Rome, Italy in Arian Mostaedi, Bars and Restaurants (Barcelona: Carles Broto i Comerma; Instituto Monsa de Ediciones S.A., 1999), 103; PhotoCrd: Matteo Piazzo / 2000 St. Martins Lane [2000] Philippe Starck and Anda Andrei; London in Melissa Barrett Rhodes, "Room with a Hue," Interior Design 71, no. 1 (Jan. 2000): 122-31; PhotoCrd: Todd Eberle; Georges Restaurant [2000] Dominique Jakob and Brendan MacFarlane; Paris, France in Claire Downey, "Georges Paris," Architectural Record 188 no. 9 (Sep. 2000): 136; PhotoCrd: ArchiPress; Sketch Restaurant and Bar [2003] Mourad Mazouz; London, UK in Joachim Fischer, ed., Restaurant Design (Stuttgart, Germany: Daab Press, 2004), 284-85; PhotoCrd; Sketch; Mix [2005] Patrick Jouin; Las Vegas, NV in David Kaufman, "Cloud Nine," Interior Design 76, no. 3 (Mar. 2005): 168-172; PhotoCrd: Eric Laignel; Restaurant, Amerigo Hotel [2006] Elvira Blanco; Alicante, Spain in Stacy Shoemaker, "Divine Inspiration," Hospitality Design 28 no. 1 (Jan./Feb. 2006): 64-69; PhotoCrd: Hospes Hotel.

bibliographic citations

1) The Interior Archetypes Research and Teaching Project, Cornell University, (accessed month & date, year).

2) Cho, Jasmin. “Theory Studies: Archetypical Practices of Contemporary Restaurant Design.” M.A. Thesis, Cornell University, 2009, 38-45.