LOCATION / BROOKLYN, NY
COMPLETED / 2015
PHOTOGRAPHER / ALEX AYER
In 2013, Valrhona Chocolate, the iconic French Chocolatier, sought to create a headquarters in the Americas that would reflect their heritage of culinary excellence and history as well as highlight a forward thinking perspective. They selected Slade Architecture for this challenge. The goal was to create the Ecole du Gran Chocolate in the Americas in half of the available space and use the other half for the Sales office for Valrhona in the Americas.
The site selected was a landmarked brick building in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, previously a shoe factory, with an honest patina accumulated over years. Celebrating the existing envelope of the space was an immediate priority for the design team and in so doing, we were able to reinforce the tradition and history of the brand and the local presence in a truly Brooklyn atmosphere. However, environmental concerns and health requirements dictated that this aging / appealing envelope be treated gingerly with advanced sealants to render it food service - safe while retaining the characteristic appearance.
The chocolaterie room was located centrally, immediately off the entry vestibule, with clear sight lines from the entire space—physically manifesting the core role this plays for Valrhona. A plaster wall from reception offers framed views into the chocolaterie showing both the process and the end result of making these confections and even referring to the movement involved in making chocoloate with the texture of the wall itself. Workstations are mobile and simple for flexibility with class room and entertaining or marketing functions. Power structures are all elevated into the ceiling thus maintaining a clear floor plane.
New elements are introduced judiciously to create impact and tie the brand into the space seamlessly without overwhelming the existing. A starkly simply material palette is used for new elements (black plaster, stainless steel, white paint, blackboard paint highlights) to emphasize the highly functional /unadorned nature of the space and thus celebrate the sincerity and quality of the chocolate and its preparation that is the true hero.