Suba has garnered a James Beard design-award nomination and a fashionable following for architect Andre Kikoski
Raul Barreneche -- Interior Design, 6/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
Just a few years ago, Manhattan's bright young things would never have dared to be seen at Ludlow and Delancey Streets, where architect Andre Kikoski has designed the stylish restaurant Suba. Transforming a derelict tenement's ground-floor bodegas, rendered vacant by a drug bust, Kikoski meticulously restored and reinforced the brick shell of the 1909 building and created three distinct interior spaces: a ground-floor tapas bar and lounge and two subterranean dining areas.
Though an alumnus of I.M. Pei, Richard Meier, and other hard-edged modernists, Kikoski took a raw, elemental approach to Suba. He says he set out to design a space "that you don't get tired of, that's not faddish. I also tried not to erase the tenement. New York is all about things that became other things."
One level below the ground-floor bar-lounge is Suba's main dining area—and main attraction: The floor appears to float within a luminous water-filled moat that casts gently shimmering shadows on the brick walls. "For inspiration, I watched La Dolce Vita, with the decadent Roman aristocrats playing in the catacombs," says Kikoski. This aqueous dining grotto also recalls the Moorish water gardens of the Alhambra palace and the back canals of Venice. (If Suba bears a grungier resemblance to the Four Seasons restaurant's swank pool room, that's because Kikoski worked with Ann Kale Associates, the firm that relit the Four Seasons pool.) Farther down still, the 14-foot-tall dining gallery—the result of excavating 10 feet beneath a former backyard—is painted in bold, "Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera" colors. All three areas are joined by a new steel stair. The architect paid special attention to the grating's 1/4-inch spaces, certified to pass muster with 1/2-inch-wide Manolo Blahnik stiletto heels.