Design Award Entries

CO-OP Ramen

CO-OP Ramen is a new, fast-casual restaurant set inside a former food processing plant converted into a vibrant market for local farmers and entrepreneurs. Thoughtfully detailed wooden booths and ceilings gather and light the space, set in contrast to walls of finely-laid concrete blocks. Focused inward, the restaurant is an oasis inside a bustling market.

Project Statement

CO-OP Ramen is a new fast-casual ramen restaurant in the 8th Street Market in Bentonville, Arkansas, a community-focused food hub that pairs culinary excellence and experiences with support for small and midsize local farmers. Set within a former food processing plant, CO-OP Ramen is an oasis, a moment of quiet inside the bustling market, constructed from simple materials to create a productive dissonance between new and old. Seemingly unrefined materials are handled with care and elevated to create a carefully composed and richly texture space that focuses inward.
A beaded steel curtain screens views into the restaurant from the exterior, withholding the full experience until visitors are inside. The curtains reduce and soften the light inside, providing an opportunity to escape for a moment into another world and encouraging softer voices. Visitors are met by a wooden ceiling that expands throughout the restaurant, providing a soft, warm light. Made from simple, construction-quality plywood, the ceiling and booths are elevated through careful joinery and detailing of the edges, then illuminated by concealed light fixtures. Light travels through the depth of the plywood in the deeply coffered ceiling, causing light and shadow to become caught up in the recesses and in-between. The warmth of the wood is juxtaposed against walls of concrete block with a serrated face, emphasizing the relationship of the handmade to the industrial.
Surrounded by carefully laid concrete block walls softened by a 12 ft tall living green wall, guests can watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen, creating refined versions of simple food, another example of elevating and honoring something simple through thoughtful care and invention. With a variety of seating provided, visitors can choose between booths in “the cave,” communal dining tables in the open, or bar seating in front of the exposed kitchen. Although only 2,000 square feet, CO-OP Ramen creates a remarkable variety of spaces that remain unified by the design. This simple strategy provides a tactile experience within an industrial relic, giving humanity and scale.

AIA Arkansas