Space for Something / Davidson Rafailidis

Architects: Davidson Rafailidis
Area: 122 m² (1313 ft²)
Year: 2023
Photography: Naho Kubota
Lead Designer: Davidson Rafailidis
Team: Stephanie Davidson, Georg Rafailidis
Employer Of Record: BDR D.P.C.
Exterior Signage: Andre Fuchs
City: Amherst
Country: United States

Space for Something, a renovated restaurant by Davidson Rafailidis in Amherst, New York, has transformed a fire-damaged building into a versatile, program-independent space. Completed in 2023, the project enhances its urban context, allowing for flexible use. The renovation preserves original elements while introducing larger openings and an outdoor patio. The design balances frugality and creativity, capturing a raw spatial character during a period of stillness.

Space for something / davidson rafailidis

Space for Something explores the stillness of a space without a designated use. Initially, this might seem like a lack, as if the space is incomplete. However, this space retains viability during periods of inactivity. Without a specific function, the space simply exists, unsupervised and unguided by a fixed plan until routine operations commence, furniture arrives, and security systems are activated. This often-overlooked time reveals the enduring, raw spatial character meant for any purpose—a true Space for Something.

The project involved renovating and adding to a small restaurant damaged by a kitchen fire. Initially deemed a total loss, the first phase focused on cleaning up the damage and assessing the remaining structure’s integrity. The renovated interior retains all intact elements, including the simple front/back layout divide. The main change was to the front façade, where the original brick had been damaged by construction adhesive used for a decorative EIFS façade applied in the ’80s.

In line with the unpredictable life cycles of buildings, the design emphasizes long-term, program-independent spatial ideas, addressing the relationship between interior space and the bustling streetscape. Larger openings, including two new doors, were introduced to facilitate potential interior subdivision, as it had been in the past. A large folding-sliding façade connects the interior to a new outdoor patio, defined by a robust new clay block privacy wall.

The outdoor space is an unexpected addition in a heavily trafficked suburban area, intended to respond to the long-term urban context and pedestrian activity lingering due to a nearby bus stop and residential block. A patchwork of distinct clay bricks in various colors and sizes, coupled with a varied ice cream color palette, creates a unique spatial character on a tight budget, reflecting Bruno Taut’s frugal approach.

The space, provisionally outfitted for a new chapter for a longstanding Chinese restaurant, remained closed for an extended period while the owners deliberated on how to restart the business. This prolonged testing period allowed the basic spatial character of the stripped-down, unfurnished Space for Something to emerge, showcasing humble architectural relations: a pendant light tentatively hooked on a wall, a chair temporarily placed in a corner, an ever-present trash bin, and abundant natural light filling the space, regardless of occupancy.

Space for something / davidson rafailidis
Project Gallery
Project Location

Address: 47 Kenmore Ave, Amherst, New York 14226, United States

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