As Sydney’s renowned Bourke Street Bakery, beloved for their friendly atmosphere and baked goods, opened its first café in the NoMad district of Manhattan, GRT Architects were charged with the task of creating a space reminiscent of its Australian home.

Cofounder and baker Paul Allam found a space located on the ground floor of a half-block complex of buildings formerly known as the Hotel Seville, presently The James Hotel NoMad. This two thousand square foot space was delivered raw. The steel beams which formerly supported the second floor were exposed, barely above head height.

“Throughout the design process we looked for ways to preserve the unique character of the space while building a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen visible to patrons of the all-day café”, the architects said. “To introduce Bourke Street Bakery to a new continent we created a kitchen visible from all parts of the space. Diners can eat on the same slab of marble that bakers use to roll out pastry. Bread is baked throughout the day in a seven-foot-tall deck oven, given pride of place at the junction between front and back of house.”

Baking activity and equipment contributes to but does not define the space. Upon entering the space, customers are immediately enveloped in a warm, textured material palette that leaves the street behind. The steel beams running nearly seven feet overhead are an important design element both in their appearance and as a ‘watermark’ used to divide wall finishes. Below the beams softer, acoustically absorptive cork panelling lines the walls and composes against custom American cherry millwork.

“We selected the cherry for its colour and for the natural variations in colour inherent in the wood”, said the architects. “We like the subtly striated appearance of the tambour panelling that emerges from this variation.” 

Above, a more abstract thin wale corrugated steel reflects light and resolves the transition to fully exposed mechanical systems. The concrete floor is in a salmon colour, chosen to evoke Bourke Street’s sunnier home and for the way it adds warmth to bounced light. At the centre of the café is a community table with stools in splattered pink and green enamel. The perimeter is lined with a custom banquette in solid American cherry with a deep green leather back. Loose seating in shades of green complements the warm tones throughout and echoes the various plants distributed in the space.

AHEC’s David Venables, commented “American cherry is vastly underutilised but one of the world’s fastest growing temperate hardwoods. Bourke Street Bakery is a great example of how its rich reddish-brown colour can add a layer or warmth and sophistication to an interior.”

Besides crowds waiting for bread and sausage rolls, the greatest compliment paid has been from visiting Australians who said the room feels like home.


Text and imagery courtesy of GRT Architects:

Architectural Project by: GRT Architects
Materials: American cherry, concrete and steel
Location: NoMad district, New York City
Area: 2,000 sf
Photos: Michael Vahrenwald