Mozart’s Clintonville

Bass Studio Architects is helping Anand Saha shape the new home for Mozart's Bakery and Piano Bar.

To be located at 4784 North HIgh Street, Columbus, Ohio 43214, in a building many folks will remember as "The Reserve" a fine Oriental rug store, or as the "Cord Camera Building".

The project is in for a building permit as of 1/17/13. The facility as planned will feature an active cafe along the HIgh Street part of the building - with the trademark piano; a more quiet dining area centrally located, large flexible spaces for private dining and arts activities, a full kitchen and on site bakery and ice cream production.

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Contract Magazine: Designer Perspectives: A Q&A with Timothy Bass, Bass Studio Architects

Original article from Contract Magazine October 3rd, 2011:

Timothy Bass founded Columbus, Ohio-based Bass Studio Architects to be just that: a studio, one that did everything, soup to nuts. And since 1992, he and his Columbus, Ohio-based firm has done just that, offering "creative problem-solving" to clients, many of them restaurateurs, and most of them, repeat customers. Bass entered his first design competition, the 2011 AIA Los Angeles Restaurant Design Awards and won, receiving an honorable mention for the design of Edamame Sushi + Grill in his hometown. Here, he discusses how wanting to be a mechanic led him to architecture, his love of Peruvian food, and how less is ultimately more when it comes to materials.

1. Talk to us about Bass Architects. 
I founded Bass Studio Architects in 1992. Leaving the corporate environment, I had an idea about a looser, more fun practice, modeled more on an atelier than corporation. I wanted to attract and nurture creative people, thus, Bass "Studio." We are a small firm by design; there have been no more than six designers at any time over the last 19 years. I do have a great network of outside resources (I call 'paratroopers') that allow us to build critical mass when we need. The office looks like a sophomore studio I am told. Sketches, samples, graphic samples, trace paper, and models are the primary decorative motif.

While we do not specialize, we have developed extensive expertise in restaurant design. We have also completed a number of smaller urban buildings; some very enjoyable and challenging projects. We are currently working on a project that may combine the two project types in a boutique hotel. We enjoy a cross fertilization of ideas from the wide array of project types we accept. Beyond conventional architecture and interiors, we have designed furniture, murals, light fixtures, artwork, and a unique deconstructed aquarium for one installation. We have designed menus, routinely provide branding and graphics; and recently, we provided smallware, selection, and purchasing services to help outfit a restaurant in Norfolk, Virginia.

My goal starting out was to be a'total design studio.' We are close now. Our feeling is that it is all design; it is all creative problem solving.  

2. What's your favorite part about designing restaurants?
TB: I am frequently amazed at how different functional and character requirements can be between different restaurants even though they are often projects of similar size and essentially the same program.

In addition to having the most complex functional demands of the project types we routinely encounter, restaurants are also expected to provide a transcendent experience. Whether theatrical, sublime, or otherwise themed, the successful restaurant will provide a remove from the commonplace of our everyday lives. Beyond the first impression and movement through the space, the design must also provide interest at the scale of the table for a period of time without subordinating the culinary experience.

It is also rewarding to start with a client or chef's vision of this experience, to work through the design process and end up with a physical environment that is an expression of their vision.

3. What trends are you are paying attention to in hospitality and restaurant projects right now? 
We do take the sustainable design impetus seriously. I hope that it is not a trend. Two of us in the office are LEED AP, BD+C and we are members of the U.S. Green Building Council. We have always practiced "performance design": value-oriented material selection with an eye toward long life cycles and durability.  We've found that a well-conceived design concept does not require expensive or exotic materials (or the latest, hottest...). In fact, in the project that garnered the honorable mention from in the 2011 AIA Los Angeles Restaurant Design awards, the predominant finish was paint!

4. What's the most important thing to remember when designing a restaurant?
Food quality, consistency, and service are the essentials for a successful restaurant. If our work does not support these then we haven't been of service to our client. Ambiance, culture, and art are overlays on the central mission of the restaurant.

5.  You had  designed three restaurants for one client. Can you delve into those projects a bit (location, concept, design)? Why were these a successful collaboration?
Actually, we have designed three restaurants for two sets of clients ,and I am working on the fourth for one of them.  We have also designed three restaurants for one of the largest universities in the country.

Our J.Liu Restaurant and Bar clients, Jason Liu and his wife Tina, began their first casual quick-serve with a dream and willingness to work very hard. Their hard work  has brought  them to the point that they sold that business and have since worked with us on two successful upscale locations of the full-service J.Liu concept. The second J.Liu (third commission with him) unit was a new 18,000-square-foot building that included a banquet facility above the restaurant and service kitchen elements in the basement. We are working on a fourth that will occupy a large part of a block in an upscale community. The project is a mixed use that has been programmatically fluctuating from two to four stories.

Our Asian Gourmet & Sushi Bar client, Charlie Choe, began with a late entry into a project he already had under construction. At the recommendation of the builder of J.Liu, Charlie invited us over to review plans and offer comments in a space he had under construction. He hired us on the spot. We turned that unit around and have since completed two more units for Charlie. The second unit, Edamame Sushi + Grill (shown right), was our first design competition submission (we just haven't felt compelled to pursue these in the past).

Both of these clients trust us. Both of these clients challenge us. With both of these clients, we feel a confidence to pursue interesting ideas and a familiarity that allows us to learn from each other. As a professional we often have a need to educate, but with successful and intensely caring clients, we have to remember to step back and allow ourselves to be educated.

6. Talk about a recent project you completed. What was the concept, solution, location, highlights?
I always say that the toughest problems generate the most interesting solutions. The Edamame Sushi + Grill project leasehold was a horribly long and narrow space with a simple storefront entry. We discussed a mezzanine to exploit the vertical space but there was an enormous girder in the center of the space. We solved this problem by creating intimate dining "pods" at various levels to frame the open kitchen, creating an active environment within the exterior green enclosure (wrapper), not unlike edamame beans within the wrapper.

Creating two very distinct sides to the narrow space visually expands the space and mitigates the narrowness of the space; in fact, with opposing "pods" elevated above the space at the ends of the long orientation, the design reverses the orientation of the space away from the narrowness and storefront issues.

7. What has been one of your most interesting or rewarding restaurant projects?
While winning an award for a recent project was "rewarding," I have to single out our first restaurant design about 17 years ago. We designed a contemporary Peruvian café, the Latin Rooster Rotisserie, for a client living in Columbus. He gave us a modern Peruvian artist for inspiration and street scenes from his hometown in Peru and turned us loose.The restaurant came off quite well. I believe my friends grew tired of me dragging them to the place. One of the first dates with my wife included dragging her to the Latin Rooster (I loved the food too).

8. What's your dream project?
I would like to design a large hotel. I would like to do large urban design; this was the focus of my master's thesis. Perhaps, ideally, these two could merge into a design for a large resort. It is all design.

Bass Studio Architects is Design Competition Finalist

Exciting News! Bass Studio Architects design for Edamame Restaurant is 1 of 7 (non-bar) selected in a competition by the AIA Los Angeles for Restaurant Design in a national competition. The Architectural Jury is 6/24/11 - what we need though is for you to vote for Edamame - ... more

Making the J.LIU Mural

On one of my visits to Jason and Tina's home, their sons George and Gordan offered me a viewing of their artwork. They were, at the time, 8 and 5 respectively.

The artwork they shared with me was wonderfully joyous, spontaneous, surreal, abstract and yet still representational. I shared with Jason and Tina then that I thought the work was wonderful and inspired beyond the children’s' years. At that time I shared with Jason that their work was similar to the Joan Miro pieces that we placed in the Dublin location.

A year or two later, as we were designing the Worthington location, we had a design idea that employed a very long angled wall as an organizing element that ran the length of the entire first floor Dining and Bar areas. We knew this element would need a strong visual presence to knit together the very different spaces through which it runs.

We needed to develop a visual element that was unique, yet related to the theme of the art pieces from the Dublin location, the Joan Miro work (as an extension of the prototype identity). George and Gordans' art came to mind. Being children, their work was everything I mentioned above plus, un-self-conscious as well. In fact it was what Miro strove for in his "recreation of the childlike". We approached Jason about creating a mural featuring George and Gordan's artwork - he welcomed the idea.

Making of the mural became a fun exercise for my entire staff :

We gathered many of George and Gordans' pieces and brought them into our office.

We viewed them all and identified elements of the work we thought would be useful in a larger scale visual piece.

The pieces were all individually scanned and edited to isolate the parts we enjoyed most.

The scale of the wall made it necessary to have a larger compositional theme so that the piece was not just a texture of small pieces. Though it is not evident in the final work, the larger compositional ideas are informed by the ancient Chinese "River and Mountain" paintings. In fact several served as a background until well into the process.

At a critical point tin the process, we decided to drop the literal "River and Stream" backgrounds and create a larger scale framework in a character consistent with the world of Joan Miro, George and Gordan Liu. The idea of the two scales being to create interest from a distance and from up close (sitting next to the mural).

Just for fun, we composed the large-scale framework entirely of geometric shapes pulled from Bass Studio Architects' Jason’s (J. Liu) and other BSA projects.

After the whole was composed and approved, we had the entire work printed on vinyl panels and installed on the wall.

Jason’s Worthington Opens

Jason's Worthington Restaurant and Bar opened for business August 8, 2008.

The project was the culmination of over two years of planning and construction and encompasses more than 18,000 square feet of restaurant, meeting and kitchen space.

The project is the second Jason's Restaurant and Bar Designed by Bass Studio Architects. BSA designed the first Jason's in Dublin in 2004. The new facility features a grand Ballroom/Meeting Space capable of seating 250; serviced by an auxiliary Kitchen and two Bars.

Congratulation Jason Liu; our friend and client.

BSA experiences big construction period

Bass Studio Architects is enjoying a surge in construction.

In June, the Lane and High Building opened with 10,000 square feet of dining space for BW3 on the Ohio State University Campus. Bass Studio Architects designed the shell building. The building is a new landmark on campus.

Our 15,000 square foot addition for the Anchor Baptist Church is approaching completion this fall.

The 18,000 square foot facility for Jason's Worthington restaurant is nearly under roof and is projected to open in May of 2008.

The unique building at Woodruff and High Street is sheathed and ready to receive the signature brick veneer pattern. The building should be complete soon.

Growing Beyond Green:

This entry follows four days of classes, symposiums, and keynote lectures, viewing acres of new product on the convention floor, and conversations with peers from across the country.

The AIA had an incredible line up of speakers and educators, including: Al Gore, David Suzuki and architects William G. Reed AIA and Chrisna du Plessis. Many concerned practitioners shared strategies, in lectures and symposia, by which architects, engineers, developers and building owners can help reduce human impact on the finite resources of our planet.

I return excited, inspired and reinvigorated about the profession and the leading role that architects, building owners, developers, and even single family homeowners can play in reducing and even repairing the damage that humans are inflicting on the planet. Global warming is only the most known of the very real environmental and resource issues we have created for ourselves – and must solve.

Over the course of the four days, my attitude changed from one of feeling overwhelmed and powerless to make a difference to that of knowing that we can make a difference one small decision at a time. Through a commitment to the solution rather than fear of the problem we can move our practices and clients to a new paradigm for making buildings and shaping our communities.

Beyond Green Buildings:

In addition to the idea of greening our design process and building results, I was excited to learn from William G. Reed AIA and Chrisna du Plessis about a “regenerative design process”. This is a bit more involved process, but offers-in simple concepts -a way to design for projects that repair rather than simply reduce our environmental impact.

I will be happy to share more about these issues and challenges. Feel free to contact me at my office if you would like to learn more and discuss our efforts.