BanQ, NADAAA renovated an abandoned place as fancy restaurant

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BanQ restaurant by NADAAA voted the best new restaurant by The Wallpaper Magazine, is located on the ground floor of the old Penny Savings Bank, in an early 20th-century structure in Boston that had been abandoned for years. BanQ restaurant has managed to capture the essence of the building’s past while still creating an atmosphere of modern sophistication and elegance. 

The Boston Penny Savings Bank, a previously splendid Classical Revival marble structure dating from 1917, had endured long neglect, as had all of Boston’s South End prior to its current revival. After the structure sat vacant for many years, a local developer gave it new life by converting it into condominiums. He restored the building’s historic facade, gutted the interior, added new structural supports, and protruded a glass box out of the roof to add three more stories of living space.


When the architects saw the initial space with the clients, they realized they were inheriting structural and mechanical systems that would likely impair the interior. The front half of Washington St. is designated as a bar, while the larger hall behind serves as a dining room, according to the building program. However, the space was organized around another divide on the z-axis, which separates the ceiling from the floor. It was decided that the ceiling must contain fixed programs that are essential to the building’s infrastructure, including the drainage, mechanical devices, sprinkler system, lighting, and other acoustic systems, and hence the ground can be flexible due to the changing activities of the restaurant space—two-seaters, fours, and sixes, among a variety of other organizations related to parties and other events can be arranged.

The architects decide to control everything overhead to take advantage of the height and give the most flexibility to the ground. The team devised a unique design after being inspired by Amsterdam’s Airport Schiphol, wherein a metal ceiling system serves as a visual foil for the equipment beneath it. Instead of using metal, they used CNC-milled Baltic birch plywood to build their baffle system in this project. They “shrink-wrapped” the services in order to engage them rather than dismiss them. The ceiling’s undulations are well-defined as they wrap around and surrender to columns, a wine room, a sprinkler system, ducts, windows, and even exit signs.

One hundred sixty-eight plywood ribs (each made of four to ten component pieces) hang over the length of the restaurant’s ceiling, strung with steel hurricane ties from six birch structural elements painted black (like the mechanicals behind them) that run from the front to the back of the room. There are no two pieces alike. The wine chamber and columns are surrounded by ribs that are 18 inches wide and between 2 inches and 6 inches thick. As the ribs move from 9 inches to 3 inches around columns, a rhythm of compression and release is created. 

The ceiling of BanQ contrasts with the outside while forming a separate indoor landscape. According to Tehrani, its relationship with the facade is built “more on dissonance than on integration.” The architects gave the restaurant its identity with a single gesture that simultaneously hid and exaggerated the infrastructure, creating motion, and adding topography and texture to an otherwise uninteresting space while attempting to conceal mechanicals and provide an acoustic baffle to reduce noise for the residences above. BanQ’s architecture is anything but subtle; it screams for your attention and does not let visitors forget where they are. 

Project Details 

Project Name: BanQ
Project Size– 4,800 square feet
Client- SOWA Restaurant Group, LLC
Architect- Office dA, Inc.
Project Design: Nader Tehrani, Monica Ponce de Leon
Principal in Charge– Nader Tehrani
Project Architect- Dan Gallagher
Project Coordinators– Catie Newell, Brandon Clifford
Project Team– Harry Lowd, Richard Lee, Lisa Huang, Remon Alberts, Janghwan Cheon, Jumanah Jamal, Aishah Al Sager
Contractor- Homeland Builders
Structural Consulting Engineer– Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc.
MEP Consulting Engineer– Wozny/Barbar & Associates, Inc.
Lighting Consultant- Collaborative Lighting
Acoustical Consultant- Acentech
Kitchen Consultant- TriMark USA, Inc.
Building Code Consultant- Hal Cutler
Photographer– John Horner

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