2019 Design Award

LeBao Asian Eatery Columbia, Missouri
Merit Award


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Architect:  Space Architects + Designers + Builders
Photographer:  Matt Marcinkowski

Our client owns a popular full-service restaurant, and she wanted to open a second restaurant serving fast-casual-friendly bao, steamed buns filled with a variety of meats and veggies.

She found a two-story 2200sf space in a Quonset hut undergoing renovation.  The former seed store was rough:  exposed purlins, poor woodwork, structural issues, and stairs up to a second floor loft.  The challenge was balancing her refined brand in such a rough space, while at the same time pleasing the building owner who wanted the new design to pay homage to the building's original structure.  The kitchen and casual dining fit on the first floor, while the second floor evolved into a nicer, quieter dining area, featuring a full-service bar that doubles as private event space.

Our solution became the most notable architectural feature:  linear wood cladding on the round ceiling.  To keep it in the budget for aesthetic and acoustical


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considerations, we bypassed manufactured products and designed — and produced ourselves — flexible, 4 x 4 modular panels.  The panel spacing maintained the vertical repetition of the purlins, which pleased the building owner, and the refined warmth of the wood pleased our client.  The wood panels flowed seamlessly into the second-floor banquettes and to the first floor in some areas.  This treatment created an elegant, acoustically-pleasant space for guests on both floors.

Playful branded graphics and furniture in branded colors round out the restaurant to give a fitting, curvaceous home to this city's first bao restaurant.