ENIGMA is the most ambitious Neolith project to date, completed in collaboration with RCR Arquitectes / P.Llimona
The history of ENIGMA began with famous Catalan Albert Adrià’s vision of creating a project that would reflect his gastronomy and career. His vision took shape when the winners of the 2017 Pritzker Prize (along with Estudio Sánchez Guisado Arquitectos as special collaborators) painted his design idea in watercolors and decided to bring it to life using Neolith Sintered Stone. The charming interior of ENIGMA was created through incredibly creative and up-close collaborative work as well as Neolith’s experience and technical know-how.
After having worked on the design proposal for three years, Adrià wanted to be sure his passionate project creating a captivating atmosphere to enchant his guests would have the perfect result.
FROM PAPER TO THE SLAB
The crucial moment as far as the design came when RCR Arquitectes / P.Llimona painted a watercolor on 3 different pieces of A2-size paper. That painting had to be replicated on the floor.
For Neolith, it was a project of unprecedented technical difficulty which marked a turning point in the company’s history. Carlos Garcia, Neolith Product Designer, explains: “We had to expand the original design all while not losing any of the quality definition offered by the original. Each pixel equaled two meters of the final flooring.”
With some R+D, Neolith developed the technology to create the slab design to produce a perfect replica of the painting. Once that had been achieved, they had to get the exact color used in the original - greenish and bluish tones which were unusual in the production of Sintered Stone.
The intensity of the colors had to fit with the rest of the materials and decoration used in the restaurant to achieve a unified atmosphere that would fully immerse diners in the premises. The initial design devised by the architects was fully copied using Neolith Digital Design (NDD).
In addition to the color, the architects wanted all the slabs to have an irregular texture, so they chose the Riverwashed finish due to the rough to tough texture and high and deep relief; however, the slabs also needed a subtle shine. For the first time ever, Neolith combined both effects in a single design. It was an all-new challenge that also increased the technical complexity of the final design.
“Neolith is a contemporary material with many properties. We were so surprised by the possibilities that we’re now using it for other projects,” explained RCR Arquitectes / P.Llimona.
The restaurant floor posed the greatest difficult given the unequal design as each one of the flooring slabs in the restaurant are different from each other and had to be fit together like a puzzle to represent the watercolor over the entire restaurant floor.
Thus, Neolith first applied the entire floor at their own facilities and took aerial images using a drone to get a complete perspective of the design from above and make sure there were no errors or different tones in the pieces.
RCR Arquitectes / P.Llimona designed an organic space full of curves and narrow halls that required the slabs be cut into six smaller pieces with the smallest one only 3 cm wide. The absolute precision was key to guaranteeing the continuity of the watercolor.
Inspired by a map of the design, they used a system of coordinates and labeled each one of the pieces to establish the exact position in the project. This made it so the installers could fit each of the pieces inside the restaurant like a puzzle.
THE FINAL RESULT… ENIGMA
Albert Adrià, RCR Arquitectes and Neolith have been acknowledged many different times with important awards in their respective industries. Together, they created a truly spectacular project in terms of design, material quality, gastronomy and, surprisingly, fashion as well. Completing the scene is the ENIGMA staff whose uniforms were also designed by RCR Arquitectes / P.Llimona.
ENIGMA is truly full of surprises. “We like the idea that it is an Enigma; that it’s difficult to explain. It’s a captivating space that blends together and disappears much like a maze. The materiality and configuration create a whole series of organic movements along the route we’re not accustomed to. There’s shading, transparencies, an aqueous and foggy presence,” describes RCR Arquitectes / P.llimona.