• Location(s): Chicago, IL
  • Project Includes: Conceptual

For this iteration of the NEWH hospitality design competition, along with a fast-casual concept and a pandemic-era city plan, Aria Group reimagined how a space could provide a safe, healthy environment without sacrificing joy or quality of experience. As COVID-19 came to the forefront of public life, it became clear very quickly that we would need to rethink the way we design restaurants. The ILLUME concept allows for a high-quality, unmasked social gathering with minimal exposure to infection. Through an innovative use of lighting and vegetation, the interior climate maintains its purity while acting as a sustainable source of supplemental produce for the kitchen.

A transparent façade allows natural light to nourish the vertical garden and the available sunlight plays on the interior surfaces with layers of light and shadow. Artificial UV light cleans the air inside the building and surfaces while LED grow lights sustain the indoor plants to be harvested for food. After dark, the façade allows light to shine a revitalizing light back into the neighborhood, drawing in patrons and highlighting the revitalizing action within.

Keeping safety at the forefront, guests enter the restaurant through a series of chambers designed to check temperature, sanitize and store outerwear, and provide guests with a handwashing station. A seating chart guides patrons to their table on a one-way path, decreasing movement and potential for contamination. Each of these progressions imparts a feeling of comfort and relief. Each table can be fully enclosed to allow for open or partitioned seating when appropriate. A dedicated floor vent circulates clean air while a dedicated exhaust vent overhead ensures contaminated air is not recirculated. Orders and billing are conducted on personal devices, and a rover provides table service in an effort to decrease exposure between the staff and patrons. Restaurant staff can be seen through transparent catwalks overhead  as they harvest food from the vertical gardens and rooftop farms. Growing food on site minimizes deliveries and allows the restaurant to be as self-sufficient as possible. This process both reduces potential for exposure to infection and reduces the business’ carbon footprint.