Snøhetta's design will double the size of the restaurant's garden.

To the epicures lucky enough to score a reservation at The French Laundry this spring: A three-Michelin-starred feast isn’t the only sensory treat that awaits you. Earlier this month, the 20-year-old restaurant in Yountville, California, put its kitchen on full display to the street. Approaching guests can glimpse the intricate choreography of chefs and servers through a 30-foot-long bay window inserted into a shipping container fronting Washington Street. Three additional containers complete the kitchen.

Designed by Berkeley-based Envelope A+D, the quartet of shipping containers is the latest phase in a more permanent transformation of chef Thomas Keller’s flagship. That project began two years ago, when the restaurateur asked Snøhetta principal Craig Dykers to design new kitchen and annex facilities for the Napa Valley restaurant, whose dining room occupies an 1890s-era laundry building.

“I said, ‘Why are you calling me? We have never designed a kitchen,” Dykers recalls. The architect notes that Keller wanted to apply Snøhetta’s interest in human interaction to his famously snug work environment.

The forthcoming permanent kitchen is being erected over the footprint of the former kitchen, and will measure approximately 2,500 square feet—25 percent larger than the old facility. Several other parts of the existing compound have also been demolished to make room for the 4,000-square-foot annex. Envelope A+D and Tim Harrison of Harrison & Koellner are serving as executive architect and kitchen designer, respectively.

When it is complete at the end of this year, the new kitchen will indeed embody insights about movement, which Snøhetta collected from observing the kitchen at Keller’s New York restaurant Per Se. “All good kitchens should be a little bit intimate, although the challenge is for chefs to not to run into each other,” Dykers says.

In turn, a kitchen table at The French Laundry features an edge detail that allows chefs to stand “just an inch closer to the surface, so they don’t have to shimmy [to accommodate traffic] so often,” says Dykers. The space will also feature a vaulted ceiling that evokes an unfurling tablecloth, the geometry of which will reflect sound so that opposite-facing staffers can better hear instructions.

The permanent kitchen will include more space for diners to tour the kitchen after their meals. And like the temporary shipping container kitchen, the replacement volume will include strip windows that display kitchen activity that guests will see upon their arrival. Of this indoor-outdoor relationship, Burnham says, “You can have a greater understanding of your meal, without changing the tradition of fully cordoning off the dining experience from the kitchen.”

The Snøhetta-designed expansion is markedly contemporary: The kitchen’s windows punctuate a fritted glass enclosure, while burnt wood comprises the remaining exterior siding. Of pairing a progressive aesthetic to the “familiar” vernacular of The French Laundry’s namesake building, Dykers says, “Chef Keller had seen the Louvre Pyramid and saw something interesting in the way the contemporary object and historical structure reenergized one another.”