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Personal Experiences in the Environments We Shape

Ariel Cooke - May 5th, 2023

Designing a space and seeing it come to life is among the most rewarding experiences in the practice of architecture. Recently, I sought to treat myself to that experience, and paid an overdue visit to a Manhattan restaurant whose design I contributed to in the form of a feature wall.


The restaurant, located on the second floor of One Vanderbilt in Midtown, opened in May of 2021. Two years later, I had yet to witness its opulence – blame it on the hefty price tag. Still, I had to visit this thing, if only to chase the high of seeing my design come to life.

Le Pavillon is a Michelin Star dining destination that features Chef Daniel Boulud's tantalizing French creations, where culinary artistry meets unrivaled flavors. It sounds delicious, but I am here for a drink.

Scratch that... I am here to look at the wall, with the drink as an indulgent pretense.

le pavillon_may 2023.jpg

The feature wall consists of an array of vertical wood members, with subtle curves that simulate a soft ripple across the wall, creating a 200 by 70 foot backdrop to Isay Weinfield and team's interior design.

​My wife and I arrived at opening time, sat at the bar, ordered drinks, and set off on our self-guided tour through the empty restaurant. We experienced the wall as intended: a subtle backdrop, a feature meant to fade away and let the food and plant-filled interior take center stage. I took pictures, inspected the construction, touched the wall (of course), and went back to my seat at the bar to sip on the most expensive espresso martini I have ever tasted in my life.

I have had the pleasure of seeing my designs come to life in the past. There is a déjà vu of having been there before from all the time spent seeing it on screen and on paper. This time it felt different. My own design towered 70 feet above me, like a child I had not seen in years suddenly now an adult.


I couldn’t help but feel like an outsider in this space. A feeling that grew as more patrons arrived. I felt less like a patron and more like a member of the staff. Part of the service industry. A humble contributor to an elevated culinary experience not meant for me to savor.

Architects have to stand in the shoes of others to create functional spaces. Sometimes that means wearing much nicer shoes than your own. The power of design comes from creating spaces that enrich the lives of its users. I only wish I had been able to extend that privilege to the public. We finished our drinks, said goodbye to the luxurious space, stepped out of the restaurant and back into our own shoes.

My visit to Le Pavillon left me with a sense of longing and purpose. It served as a poignant reminder of the power of architecture – the ability to shape environments that transcend our own personal experiences. I am humbled and proud to be able to come from Nicaragua and contribute to the architecture of New York City, even if just a little, even if not for me. This is an experience that I hope will allow me to contribute to creating public spaces that enrich all lives. 

To learn about the design and process of Le Pavillon Feature Wall, click HERE

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