El Pípila: Guardians of Guanajuatan Cuisine
Our first completed restaurant won the national 2019 James Beard Award for Restaurant Design: Other Eating Establishments. Our focus was to move beyond stereotypical translations of Mexican culture and cuisine by distilling the history, textures, vibrancy, and light of the chef-owner’s home in Guanajuato, Mexico into a modern interpretation of a Mexican restaurant. The pro bono effort was our first collaboration with the non-profit La Cocina, a food-related business incubator focused on women of color and immigrant communities.
Three tenacious women and a community of supporters have given El Pípila: Guardians of Guanajuatan Cuisine its first permanent home. The owners, Guadalupe Guerrero and her two daughters, are graduates of La Cocina, San Francisco’s business incubator supporting low-income women food-entrepreneurs from communities of color. The project expands the possibilities of the architect | advocate to bring the designers together with non-profits to make tangible change in our local communities. The support of an extended family of consultants, designers, fabricators, and material suppliers fulfilled the dream of the project –much of it, pro bono.
Working within the confines of an extremely narrow fourteen-foot-wide storefront space, the design uses a series of glowing light installations to evoke the palette and vibe of Guanajuato and expand the sense of depth in the tiny space. A charred wood doorway anchors the far end of the space, the central panel of which is a field of slowly shifting colored light. This door draws on the story of the hero El Pípila himself.
Legend has it that during the Mexican War of Independence, El Pípila routed the Spanish from the city’s stone granary by setting its wooden door on fire, exploiting its one point of weakness, and ultimately leading to the independence of the city. Our reinterpretation of the burned-down door with its central panel of light is a metaphor for the hopeful future for Guadalupe and her family, aligning her efforts for independence with the courage of the heroic El Pípila. Please contact us for more detailed information.