New Leaf Restaurant, Pavilion & Plaza
The New Leaf project is a design proposal by Stephen Moser Architect (SMA) for an existing restaurant and new pavilion in Fort Tryon Park that involves rethinking the adjacent public overlook plaza, with its expansive views to the east of Manhattan and the Bronx. The restaurant’s three-arched loggia serves as a focal point for the redesign of the plaza, currently a barren parking lot, and for a rock-skimming exterior staircase leading to a new upper-level entrance to the dining room and pavilion. The proposal was commissioned by Coffeed, a NYC-based company that operated New Leaf, in response to a NYC Park’s Request for Proposals. SMA’s design enhances New Leaf’s connection to its woodland setting and improves its visibility in the park. It makes the restaurant, with its iconic 1930s loggia, a more vibrant destination for both casual refreshment and candle-lit celebrations, while improving circulation and accessibility.
A highlight of the design is the new pavilion, which is constructed of timber and demountable, polycarbonate panels. In good weather, the tessellated tent-like structure would be open on all sides. The new exterior staircase connects the street-level entrance area in front of the loggia to an upper-level entrance at the building’s south end. The overlook plaza’s design calls for a wide pedestrian walkway from the arched loggia, across Margaret Corbin Drive, to a new median in the middle of the plaza. The lozenge-shaped median is landscaped with planters, benches and trees. Pathways radiate from the median to the eastern edge of the overlook, where a border of trees frames the expansive urban views of Manhattan and the Bronx. The redesign of the restaurant’s interior gives the dining and bar areas a lighter sensibility while respecting the existing timber and stone architecture.
The seasonal pavilion is connected to the restaurant and has direct views of the café lawn to the south. The adaptability of the design and construction allows it to be configured as a casual beer garden or as a venue for elegant formal events.
The new exterior staircase, along the east side of the restaurant, gives the impression of floating on top of the existing boulders as it climbs south from the loggia area to the upper-level restaurant and pavilion. Guests arriving in cars on Margaret Corbin Drive can enter the restaurant via the exterior staircase or the loggia’s existing interior stairs. Guests entering from the park side, on the west, can still use the existing main entrance. The new staircase allows foot traffic around the building’s perimeter, connecting the west- and east-side entrances.
The redesign of the public plaza—pedestrian walkway, landscaped median, pathways from median to edge of the overlook—is guided by the architectural importance of the arched loggia and a desire to activate and beautify a barren eyesore in the park, as well as to take advantage of the overlook’s urban views. The proposal calls for parking spaces along the curve of the plaza, but, for special events, like the annual medieval festival, the plaza could be turned over exclusively to pedestrians.
The proposal opens up the dining and bar spaces, lightens the interior palette with materials such as fumed oak and zinc, and uses detailing inspired by the woodland-garden setting. For example, a motif of vertical wood slats (a contemporary take on a garden lattice) screens the front faces of the bar counter, server stations, and coat check. The bar, which is shifted to the north to activate the dining room, is made out of a reclaimed light oak that has been darkened but shows the wood grain. Zinc is used for the bar countertop and for the metal supports of the glass shelving behind the bar. New banquet seating runs along the west side of the bar area.
Stephen Moser Architect (SMA) is an architecture and design studio based in NYC with a portfolio of civic-private projects, ideas-generating competitions, and innovative residences. SMA’s architecture seeks a clarity of vision: a relationship between exterior and interior that values simplicity, coherency, and openness. Our focus is on making beautiful spaces that respond to the uniqueness of place, reflect and enhance how people live and work, and use high-performance materials and sustainable technologies.
Civic-private work includes a proposal for a restaurant, pavilion and plaza, located in NYC’s Fort Tryon Park, and a plan for SummerStage in NYC's Central Park. Competition entries include an award-winning design for an open park in Nogales, at the U.S.-Mexico border, and an art wing for MALI in Lima, Peru. Residences include a house, currently under construction, that is carved into a mountain in Colorado and a net-zero-energy beach house on Shelter Island, New York.