After removing all traces of Philip Johnson’s original interior, the gutted shell is resurfaced with thin liners of varying materials that sometimes lift away to become structural, spatial, and functional elements. While the Seagram Building is considered to be the quintessential modernist glass tower, the restaurant is lodged in its stone base and is without glass, view or connection with the street. This irony prompted a series of alternate responses to the relation between glass and vision. A plasma monitor at the entry, back-to-back with a video camera to the street, produces a virtual transparency. Like a remnant of past construction, a 50-foot long sheet of lenticular glass is propped against an interior wall to support 24 seated diners. It sheaths artifacts on display and teases a direct view of them.
The ritual of making an entrance is split into two events. A sensor above the revolving door triggers a video snapshot with the entry of every new patron and his or her image is added to a continuously changing video display over the bar. At the same time, entry into the main space one-half level below the street is made theatrical: a glass stairway of unusually gradual proportions prolongs the descent and deposits each patron into the center of the dining room.