Ozu East Kitchen, Los Angeles, CA. Designed by: ANX / Aaron Neubert Architects.
Photo: Alen Lin and ANX / Aaron Neubert Architects

Meeting at A Local Park Results in Award Winning Restaurant Design
Aaron Neubert, AIA, Gives the Inside Story on Ozu East Kitchen

How do architects meet pivotal clients? For Aaron Neubert, AIA, obtaining the commission to design Ozu East Kitchen, a new eatery in Atwater Village, began when he took his kids to play in a local park and met a parent who was launching a restaurant.

Working within a tight budget and schedule, his firm, ANX, became directly involved with aspects required to complete the project that architects typically might not take on. They also delivered a 2016 Restaurant Design Award winner. Here, Aaron, who has also been an AIA|NY Design Award recipient and taught at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in addition to SCI-Arc, Woodbury, and USC—shares the inside story of Ozu East Kitchen.

How did the office get its first restaurant design commission?

I was actually at our local park with my children and overheard another parent talking about the restaurant he was planning in the neighborhood. I slipped myself into the conversation and one thing led to another and we were discussing the potential of his brand and concepts for the overall experience. Very soon after our informal exchange – and with some persistence on my part – we were fully involved with his project, from assisting in the selection of the location, to sampling potential menu items, to contributing to the overall graphic design and branding, as well as the obvious responsibility for developing the architecture and interiors.

What most surprised you about designing OZU East Kitchen? Or, what was the toughest challenge?

I’ve been incredibly surprised by how well received OZU has been in the community. The majority of our built work to date has been private homes, which see little public exposure. With OZU, we’re in a situation where we’re receiving feedback from a range of users with varying interests and knowledge of design and architecture. It’s mostly a positive experience…apparently our “fast casual” stools and benches are not as comfortable as some would like.

Our two largest challenges with OZU were an extremely tight budget and an expedited schedule, which is true of many projects of this scale. Due to these issues, we took on coordinating the finish work by bringing in our longtime fabricators and freeing up the GC to focus on other areas of the project. Ultimately, my team and I found ourselves painting and installing lights the night before the restaurant’s soft opening. Fortunately for morale, the array of draft beer was up and running at that point.

What’s a current project and why are you excited about designing it?

We’re thankful to have a number of interesting residential and commercial projects currently in the office. Two boutique hotels stand out in particular, one in Downtown LA and the other on Venice Beach, both with very smart and thoughtful clients that are genuinely engaged in the process and hungry for distinct designs that reflect and expand their brands. Both projects are family owned and operated with a long history within their respective neighborhoods. We’re excited and challenged by the opportunity to collaborate on these increasingly complex projects that offer our work a much greater exposure and impact within the community.
Last updated: 26-Aug-2016 02:07 PM
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