Architects Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu channeled the classic 1950s American diner for their recent restaurant project in the former French Concession district of Shanghai. Concrete tiles, hand-painted in a dizzying 3-D checkerboard, cover the floors and bases of the communal tables. “The geometric design evokes a certain ’50s look,” says Neri, “and adds depth and texture to a small site.”

Mirrored panels help to visually expand the 1,000-square-foot space, while steel-framed glazing folds, opening the restaurant to the outdoors. “The interior is extremely tight, and the street is one of the nicest in the city,” says Hu. “We wanted to allow a sense of transparency, to bring the activities on the street into the interior, permitting both visual and sound interactions.” A skylight running the length of the dining space brings even more daylight in. At night, minimalist pendant lamps designed by the Shanghai-based architects glow above the tables.

Despite the nostalgic design details and graphic patterns, Rachel’s Burger avoids kitsch; it’s a small place with a small menu (just the classics: burgers, plus or minus cheese, and fries). In its new home, the restaurant’s motto—“simplicity on a bun”—rings true. 

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