The Frenchette Bakery at the Whitney sits at the cornerstone of the New York cultural institution's redesigned food and beverage programme and spaces. Conceived to be open and welcoming to all, as well as smart, functional and joyful, offering food for both sustenance and thought to the discerning visitor, the new cafe and dining area has been designed by New York architecture firm Modellus Novus and opens to the public in November 2023.
Frenchette Bakery at the Whitney: a welcoming, design-led public space
Asked about the task to conceptualise the Whitney's F&B element, the studio's partner and creative director Jonathan Garnett said: 'We see projects such as Frenchette at the Whitney as critical parts of the effort to break down potential barriers to entry for cultural institutions, creating a welcoming space for the institution to feel accessible beyond the strengths of its collection and exhibitions. At the core of hospitality is its capacity to make institutions less precious and opaque, stripping down mannerisms and etiquette that are alienating for many and instead offering a place for people to simply gather.
'It was especially sensible for this space to exist not only on the perimeter of the museum, but at the main entry. That location was an important opportunity to leverage, and we sought to modify the space’s existing conditions for optimal communal gain: through amplifying transparency, atmosphere, and fostering a warm sense of gathering.'
The interior features a custom-designed, cantilevered 70ft-long wood lantern that spans the space’s northern length illuminating from within Piano's glazed façade. A sense of transparency, underscored by honesty in material use (materials include metal, concrete, steel and glass) dominate.
Meanwhile, 'Johnson’s piece equally helped dissolve the building's glass enclosure. By unapologetically cutting through the glass, guests can engage with the artwork before even stepping into the museum proper,' adds Garnett.
'Poetry is a vehicle for the exploration of critical concerns, aesthetics, and the romantic,' said Johnson. 'It is a mode that acts as a mirror of all other mediums. I consider this sculpture to be a poem.'
'Our approach and process prioritises the needs and aspirations of the chef and their team. For us, a good design is one that works just as well for the primary users of space as it does for those who support them. Here, we wanted to display all aspects of the bakery, including what is normally back of house. With our service stations and host stand being crafted with the same wood and detail as the rest of the space, while being on display alongside the kitchen, we aim to expose the idea of craft at a person-to-person moment,' continues Garnett.
'When Frenchette specifically came into the mix, we asked ourselves what enhances the display of gorgeous breads and baked goods, and pursued maple and pale woods to carry the bakery atmosphere through the space, complemented by a rich suede in a rusted red hue that envelops the bench seating and base of the bar that runs the length of the restaurant. We wanted our materials and colors to foster a dialogue between Frenchette and Johnson’s art, ultimately allowing both elements to emerge organically as one cohesive environment.'
In addition to the ground-floor restaurant, the team behind Frenchette will soon be working on a new concept for the museum’s eighth-floor café space. Conceived as a bar, this is set to open in 2024, and plans include a contribution from artist Dyani White Hawk.
Receive our daily digest of inspiration, escapism and design stories from around the world direct to your inbox
Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).
Knoll classics become unique works of art in the hands of Noel Mercado
Chicago artist Noel Mercado transforms three Knoll classics into one-off works of art using discarded car parts
By Rosa Bertoli Published
Budding romance: Dior pays homage to the rose
Dior Joaillerie’s ‘Bois de Rose’ collection pays homage to the classic flower
By Hannah Silver Published
Alaïa teams up with Rare Books Paris to curate a stylish library
Alaïa partners with Rare Books Paris to celebrate some of fashion and art’s most collectable tomes, curated by Peter Mulier and displayed in Alaïa’s Paris and London boutiques
By Tianna Williams Published
‘Frank Lloyd Wright’s Southwestern Pennsylvania’: two exhibitions bring new life to historic designs
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Southwestern Pennsylvania and Fallingwater designs, realised and unrealised, are celebrated in two exhibitions, at The Westmoreland and at Fallingwater itself
By Audrey Henderson Published
Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival design by Studio Gang revealed
The first images for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival by Studio Gang have been unveiled
By Ellie Stathaki Published
Learnings from the Architecture Sarasota MOD Weekend 2023
Architecture Sarasota MOD Weekend 2023 highlights local midcentury architects’ timeless responses to sustainability and a site-specific approach
By Angella d'Avignon Published
Roy Lichtenstein studio is now home to the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program
The 1912 Roy Lichtenstein studio has been updated by Johnston Marklee to include individual artist studios, a seminar room and other facilities
By Pei-Ru Keh Published
This artist’s studio on Long Island is carefully placed amidst a wooded site
Architects Worrell Yeung designed the Springs artist's studio to blend into the trees, with leafy views from the lofty atelier
By Jonathan Bell Published
Lever House in New York gets a 21st-century makeover
Some 70 years after its completion, SOM returns to Lever House in New York, bringing the high-rise landmark to the 21st century
By Diana Budds Published
FRPO’s Oregon house explores modern materials and a circular plan
This single-storey Oregon house in the Pacific Northwest offers a radical new take on suburban living
By Jonathan Bell Published
Camino House is a revived 1960s home in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley
Lindsay Gerber’s tactful refurbishment of Camino House brings a quiet glamour to the wood-panelled 1960s home in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley
By Shonquis Moreno Published