New York Pizza Department (NYPD), is a family of New York Style Pizzerias located in the Sonoran Desert of Phoenix, Arizona. Scattered throughout the sprawling metropolitan area, the locally owned fast casual restaurants are traditionally situated in popular suburban strip-malls of the car-dependent city. NYPD Tempe Gateway, the restaurant’s 11th location, is intended to break the previous mold with the chain’s first urban location at the heart of Tempe, Arizona on Mill Avenue. The popular street and thriving business district borders Arizona State University, the largest public university in the United States of America and is anchored by an urban lake, which draws tourists and events from around the world. The constant buzz of activity and pedestrian traffic to the area drew the restaurant to reinvent itself in a narrow 2,200 SF suite at the base of an 8-story office tower on the avenue.
The selected suite, while a departure from the restaurant’s typical footprint offers a storefront along the pedestrian promenade of Mill Avenue and the city’s burgeoning light rail line. NYPD Tempe Gateway’s diminutive footprint and urban atmosphere stand in contrast to the restaurant chain’s suburban strip-mall origins. With the reinvigoration of the Tempe’s downtown core, NYPD’s Tempe location establishes a fresh identity that departs from the restaurant’s typical 3,400 SF suburban footprint, introverted nature, and thematic New York décor, in order to establish a space the speaks to the brand’s local roots, family atmosphere, and New York artisanal quality.
In response to that challenge, the design of NYPD seeks to express in space and architectural details the craft element and local flavor that the NYPD brand prides itself on. By drawing elements from metropolitan eateries, the space creates an authentic urban atmosphere without mimicry. The reconfiguration of the existing storefront to allow for open-air dining engages the vibrant pedestrian corridor with a series of pivot doors which allow the scent of baking dough to waft into the street. Upon entering the space, a simple palate of natural and torched woods, exposed steel, subway tile, and playful structural details suggests the colors, textures, and materials of New York’s urban core without overt reference. A mirrored wall broadens the suite by visually drawing the urban landscape in. Overhead, a canopy of wooden pizza peels animates the ceiling, and the suite’s prominent wall is occupied by an oversized word find, engaging patrons’ spirit of discovery and calling to mind the word puzzles of the New York Times paper.
Working with the owner, the project was designed to streamline operations and performance within the small footprint, while maximizing seating with an emphasis on ambiance, authenticity, and craft. Careful attention was spent to create a space which efficiently manages a take-out lunch offering while maintaining a comfortable ambiance for full service diners. ‘By the slice’ menu boards fold away in the evening and beverage station screening allow the two paradoxical service types to coexist. In addition, the project invisibly manages mechanical, electrical, and storage complexities within the reduced footprint by utilizing the verticality of the suite on a mezzanine level above the walk in cooler. Here, mechanical and electrical equipment and items typically found in a managers suite are housed. Storage is integrated with custom-designed and built dining booths, banquettes, and millwork throughout. These items, in addition to being functional, also add texture, warmth, and visual interest to the build-out of the space. Subtle shifts in heights built-in pieces and dining surfaces accommodate clearances for accessibility with visual interest. The centerpiece of the restaurant is a “community bar”, anchored by a welded wire mesh wine rack, where individuals both young and old can gather for pizza by the slice while enjoying a game. The bar and community tables were designed to optimize accessibility seamlessly with the general flow and function of the restaurant.
Founded by Karin Santiago and Benjamin Mullings in Phoenix, Arizona in 2011, Lightvox Studio is a collaborative architecture and interior design studio powered by architects +designers + thinkers with the goal of using design to learn and to discover, to originate and innovate. Lightvox Studio’s experience includes innovative residential and hospitality design, restaurants, corporate dining halls, offices, and laboratories in addition to university campus health + wellness buildings. Our purpose is possibility. Our commitment is to explore as partners with our clients--deeply, fully, broadly, and in the most adventurous spirit-- the potential to create lasting value grounded in sustainable principles. Regardless of the type of work we undertake, we consistently define new and effective ways of contributing to our client's success. We use a creative and analytical design method to create built environments that speak to the way our clients aspire to live, work, and play.