A museum is all about curation. It now seems that a museum restaurant should also be curated, at least according to chef Corey Lee, who had an inspired concept for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s new flagship eatery. At In Situ, every dish is from the menu of a top culinary outpost elsewhere. For instance, the restaurant’s changing menu might include Wylie Dufresne’s shrimp grits from New York’s wd~50 and a dessert of wood sorrel and sheep-milk yogurt by René Redzepi from Copenhagen’s Noma. Given the eclectic origins of the offerings, the backdrop could have defaulted to a gallery-like sterility. But local firm Aidlin Darling Design created a space that is very much in situ, with subtle details that delight the visual palate.

SFMOMA recently unveiled a major addition and renovation by Snøhetta, which located the 6,300-square-foot restaurant in former café and event spaces off the lobby of the original 1995 Mario Botta building. The dark-toned room smoothly segues from the museum’s entry, which has a black and gray granite floor. According to chef Lee, “I didn’t want the space to feel like a typical restaurant, but an extension of the museum where food happened to be served.”

Inside, the floor is concrete, the ceiling is black expanded metal mesh, and the walls are finished in white paint, dark gray acoustic felt, and cement scratch coat. “The idea was to create a raw shell, with a mediating layer, and a few carefully placed elements,” says principal David Darling, so “the food becomes the final art in the space.”

Custom-crafted furnishings reinforce the artful qualities. Inspired by the rough-hewn work of British sculptor David Nash, bar-height tables made from salvaged cottonwood have craggy undersides that speak to San Francisco’s penchant for natural wood, without devolving into cliché. Overhead, slender blackened-steel pipe pendants are an homage to The Lightning Field by Walter De Maria. An expansive ceiling installation of wood slats by the architects is a riff on a food-drying rack.

In keeping with the museum’s mission of making art accessible, the architects devised a range of casual seating areas for 130 people (two-thirds of the space is for walk-in customers). In addition to the bar tables, there is a low-slung lounge as well a long window seat that overlooks the street. The dining area features simple tables with ash tops and sculptural Osso chairs by Paris-based designers Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec. Partially screened by a wall clad in cold-rolled steel plate, the kitchen provides glimpses of the craft involved in creating edible works of art.  



Aidlin Darling Design
500 Third Street, Suite 410
San Francisco, CA
415-974-5603 phone
415-974-0849 fax

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:

Partners: Joshua Aidlin AIA and David Darling AIA
Partner in Charge: David Darling AIA
Project Designer: Adam Rouse
Project Team: Roslyn Cole, Ryan Hughes, Jeff LaBoskey,


Structural Engineer: GFDS Engineers
Mechanical Engineer: MHC Engineers


Kitchen Consultant: Harrison Koellner, LLC
Lighting Consultant: JS Nolan & Associates
Branding, Graphics & Environmental Graphics: a l m project
Acoustic Consultant: Charles Salter Associates
Fire/Life Safety Consultant: The Fire Consultants Inc.

General contractor:

Plant Construction


Matthew Millman 415-577-3200



Structural System

Existing steel framed building by Mario Botta

Exterior Cladding

Custom designed steel window aperture in to existing aluminum storefront system; fabricated by Hardman Glazing Systems


Metal frame: Custom Steel Windows by Hardman Glazing Systems


Glass: Oldcastle Monolithic and Oldcastle Acoustic IGU (at interior separation between restaurant and museum lobby)


Entrances: Custom Wood Panel Entrance Door - Acosta Millwork

Metal doors: Boyett Door & Hardware Co.

Wood doors: Boyett Door & Hardware Co.

Sliding doors: Boyett Door & Hardware Co.; Haefele Hawa Sliding Door Hardware

Fire-control doors, security grilles: Cornell Coiling Doors

Upswinging doors, other: Eliason Co. - Dual Swing Stainless Steel Door with Window (at Kitchen)


Locksets: Schlage

Closers: Besam - Assa Abloy (Recessed closer at Entrance Door)

Exit devices: Lithonia Lighting


Interior Finishes

Acoustical ceilings: Dining Room - AMICO Alabama Metal Industries Corporation: Architectural Series Expanded Mesh Panels; Kitchen - USG Celebration Metal Ceilings

Suspension grid: Dining Room - Unistrut International; Kitchen - USG

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Custom Woodwork - Acosta Millwork

Paints and stains: Benjamin Moore

Paneling: Acoustic Wall Panels - Filz Felt Akustika 10 Wall

Plastic laminate: Wilsonart

Solid surfacing: Corian

Floor and wall tile: Kitchen and Bathroom Floor and Wall Tile – Daltile


Fixed seating:

All Custom Designed by Aidlin Darling Design
Wood from Evan Shively: Arborica
Fabricated by Northwood Design Partners


-Lounge: Jean Bar Stool - by e15; Tuxedo Leather Settee's and Ottomans - by Herman Miller; Osso Low Stool - by Mattiazzi; Mao Pouf - by Manifesto Design
-Dining Room: Osso Chair - by Mattiazzi

Tables: All Custom Designed by Aidlin Darling Design
Wood Supplier for all tables Evan Shively, Aborica
Tall lounge tables fabricated by Evan Shively, Aborica
Other tables fabricated by Northwood Design Partners

Custom Concrete Servering Credenza - Concretework


Interior ambient lighting: Custom Designed Pendant Light (over lounge) Designed by Aidlin Darling Design - Fabricated by Boyd Lighting

Track Lighting: Tegan Lighting
Recessed: Eureka - Cooper Industries
Boca Flasher linear cove lighting
NULITE wall washer

Tasklighting: Kitchen: Metalux Ceiling Grid Lights
io Lighting: Linear LED

Exterior: Front Door Stem Light: BK Lighting

Dimming system or other lighting controls: Lutron


Toto High Efficiency Flushometer Valve


Add any additional building components or special equipment that made a significantcontribution to this project: Hestan Ranges (Kitchen)