Fish Sticks: NYC’s Nobu Showcases our Work

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The new Nobu restaurant on 57th St. in New York

The Nobu project was originated in the design world of the Rockwell Group, with an intention to bring the beauty and soul of wood into this very specific urban space. Of course the influence of Japanese aesthetics and their affection for wood was a paramount piece of the paradigm. From the slab wood and glass door nestled in a portal of black walnut “timbers,” to the natural edge wood bars and their complement of back-lit onyx panels, the entire project required a sculptor’s hand on the wood combined with an extraordinary degree of technical ability never before attempted.

The timbers – large and small – had to actually be made as hollow assemblies owing to the need to place lighting, air conditioning, and wiring within. End-grain pieces ranging in size from 6″x6″ to 24″ x 36″ were cut and super dried by microwave, and then laminated onto stable substrates to eliminate cracking and degrade failure. These end grain plugs were then deftly mounted in the hollow “timbers” which were then assembled into portals and towers. The glass door was made by radically reinventing the door-making process. ¬†We started by scuttling the engineers’ design of a steel frame with glass and slab wood sections affixed into the assembly.

Instead, a 4′ x 9′ glass door was made with extreme capacity hardware. A magnificent slab of black walnut was peeled in half, and the inside face of each half was scored lengthwise in consecutive slots or “kerfs” that went 3/4″ through the 1″ thickness, leaving the outer faces virgin. These kerfs were then filled with structural silicone and the entire inner face of each slab was buttered with the silicone as well, and the two slabs were clamped together with the glass in between. The kerfing eliminated any “memory” and reaction stresses the slab might have introduced, in effect neutering it so it would act as a passive decorative skin.

The project grew aesthetically and technically, resulting in a visual tour de force that could not have been accomplished without these radical interventions.

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