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Risen and hungry: The new restaurant "Phoenix" at the Dreischeibenhaus in Düsseldorf. Photo © Steve Herud
Three-slice menu
by Christian Holl
3/2/2016

It’s always advisable to not dish out too many superlatives. But one can claim with a clear conscience that the Dreischeibenhaus in Düsseldorf, completed in 1960, is an icon of German post-War architecture and thus one of Germany’s most important high-rises. A total of 96 meters high, the elegant steel-skeleton building designed by architects Helmut Hentrich, Hubert Petschnigg, Fritz Eller, Erich Moser and Robert Walter was recently sold and then modernized in quite exemplary fashion. The new owner Patrick Schwarz-Schütte has proved himself to not just be a friend of superb architecture, but also of great cuisine, as he started by turning the former telephone switchboard section on the Dreischeibenhaus ground floor into a restaurant. It has been named after the company that commissioned the original building, Phoenix-Rheinrohr AG. Phoenix, that mythical bird, may well have acted as the role model, as it is by no means a matter of course that a heritage building of such a stature freely breathes the spirit of its original era after such thorough modernization – and arising from the ashes one is no doubt hungry.

The restaurant is accessible through the building’s two-story foyer. There, the tone is set by cool materials: a natural-stone floor with dark-green marble, elevator and stairwells clad in smooth, polished, reflective stainless-steel paneling and the turquoise-colored structural metal tubes. Access to the restaurant is via a mirrored wall that separates the restaurant from the foyer. With good reason, as even if the architects Irina Kromayer and Etienne Descloux “do not wish to be overly architect-like”, they have designed the restaurant to include many elements from the foyer, and to be discernible as part of it, but to offer a more comfy atmosphere than the admittedly impressive, but essentially sober lobby to Dreischeibenhaus. This includes using small spatial situations and furniture of rounded benches to create areas that are protected even in the open setting.

Sparkling comfiness

First of all, the flooring has been maintained, a gneiss from Northern Italy that is also used right through to the outer sides of the bar counter. Descloux searched long and hard before finding a stone that matched the floor in the lobby. The upholstery materials for the customized seating were made by Italian manufacturer Dedar and allude with their fine pigeon gray that shimmers green to the petrol-colored steel supports that bear the load of the building. The inside walls and bar area borrow from the surface finish of the core stairwell cladding, with the difference that here in the Phoenix walnut has been used in front of a mirror, emulating the flair of the building’s original life-time, creating a sense of comfiness and yet preserving a bit of the glitz of the foyer. Perforated steel tubes with an internal red enamel finish have been taken as luminaire bodies, creating color highlights and also referencing the building’s history.

The restaurant can seat about 70 and on the first floor there is also a private dining area that relies more strongly than the zone below on materials that foster a sense of intimacy without being obtrusive, for example oak flooring and walls with a fabric finishing. As on the ground floor, the workmanship is so outstanding as to be unobtrusive. The greatest skill presumably went into the places where things least catch the eye – such as the ceiling that rises slightly toward the façades, which looks as though it were child’s play to design, yet is one of the most complex building sections. Lighting, acoustics, fire protection, cabling, ventilation – the restaurant ceiling is a true all-rounder.

With a show kitchen and dark glass separating it from the stairwell and cloakroom, the interplay of transparency and reflection bringing to mind a Dan Graham installation are additional ingenious highlights that align with the spirit of the place. Artworks are hung with a strong touch of the obvious: an early Gursky at the end of the steel stairs that lead up to the first floor restroom and the private dining area, a sculpture by Francois Morellet, and one by Isa Genzken. The light sculpture by Cerith Wyn Evans, a cherry blossom, brings to mind post-War neon advertisements, without actually quoting them. In this way, the entire restaurant interior design blends with the great post-War architecture without forgetting to be independent in the process.


www.phoenix-restaurant.de
www.etiennedescloux.de

The Dreischeibenhaus in Düsseldorf, completed in 1960, is an icon of German post-War architecture. Photo © Dreischeibenhaus
The generous and high foyer in the 1960s... Photo © Dreischeibenhaus
...breathes the mood of the time after the renovation. Photo © Dreischeibenhaus
Making calls was extremely aesthetically almost 50 years ago - today office workers have to deal with penetrant colorful acoustic panels. Photo © Dreischeibenhaus Dusseldorf
A total of 96 meters high, the elegant steel-skeleton building designed by architects Helmut Hentrich, Hubert Petschnigg, Fritz Eller, Erich Moser and Robert Walter was recently sold and then modernized in quite exemplary fashion. Photo © Dreischeibenhaus
The upholstery materials for the customized seating allude with their fine pigeon gray that shimmers green to the petrol-colored steel. Photo © Steve Herud
Lighting, acoustics, fire protection, cabling, ventilation – the restaurant ceiling is a true all-rounder. Photo © Steve Herud
The architects Etienne Descloux and Irina Kromayer. Photo © Steve Herud
With a show kitchen and dark glass separating it from the stairwell and cloakroom, the interplay of transparency and reflection bringing to mind a Dan Graham installation. The chairs by Wittmann play with the zeitgeist of the 60s. Photo © Steve Herud
The leather upholstery in dark green is referring to the color of the natural stone flooring and creates an comfortable atmosphere Photo © Steve Herud
A gneiss from Northern Italy is also used right through to the outer sides of the bar counter. Photo © Steve Herud