Nestled in the Grands Boulevards district of Paris’ 9th arrondissement, Papi is the latest brainchild of up-and-coming restaurateur Etienne Ryckeboer, following the success of his debut seafood bar Bulot Bulot. This time, he teams up with Neri&Hu to rehaul the façade and interior space, and with talented Japanese chef Akira Sugiura to serve a seasonal menu of modern Italian dishes.
Located on the ground floor of a typical late 19th century Haussmann building, Neri&Hu’s design concept celebrates the layered material heritage that narrates Parisian history. During the dismantling phase, the existing site was treated carefully; by stripping back the strata of finishes that have built up through the decades, the beauty of the bare materials is revealed. Every single existing element was meticulously examined, and the challenge was in resisting the urge to fix every imperfection, to instead honor the imprint of time upon each surface.
Within the interior, portions of the old limestone and brick walls, a raw steel column, and a brick column are preserved and integrated into the design. On the façade, an existing steel I-beam lintel is featured, while a segment of the old stone moulding by the entry is left exposed, stitching the façade seamlessly to the neighboring building. Each fragment represents a different period in Paris’ history, forming a beautiful yet imposing canvas for the architects to add their new strokes.
The new raw-steel-framed fully-operable glass façade maintains a visual continuity between the street and the venue, and effectively extends the public realm into the interior. As guests enter the space through the main door, they see the clash of juxtaposing old and new materials, telling a story of sophistication with fresh textures of tile, glass and wood.
Mirrors are placed strategically to create dynamic perspectives and voyeuristic moments between interior and exterior, while inviting guests into cross gazes. The spatial and material strategies deployed create a layered reading against the historical backdrop, offering guests a variety of experiences to explore within the space – moments of both public introversion and private extroversion.
Despite the compact 52 square meters of usable area, Neri&Hu’s asserts two figures into the space: an oblong volume forming an arena-like enclosure that integrates all the functional needs of seating, display, chef’s preparation counter, privacy screen, as well as a round shape containing the wood-burning oven. Clad in handmade convex-curved white ceramic tiles, the enclosure features large openings framed with thick birch plywood that become seating benches for guests.
Entering the arena, where the floor is adorned with narrow white ceramic tiles, guests are instantly transformed from spectators to performers on stage. The central communal table features a long custom pendant light above, while a series of lights by Viabizzuno create a stark modern contrast on the old limestone wall. Custom wood and fabric chairs, manufactured by De La Espada, are designed by Neri&Hu specifically for Papi Restaurant to fit within the limited footprint.