Don't call Clyde Frazier's Wine and Dine a 'sports bar.' True, the New York City restaurant, designed by Morphosis Architects, comes with a foul-shooting basketball court at one end of the bar. And, true, the persona of the former Knicks guard Walt (Clyde) Frazier, who owns the eatery along with ARK Restaurants, permeates the place as the visual inspiration for its arresting interior. ARK's chairman and CEO Michael Weinstein didn't want the beery, greasy-burger, shouty, TV atmosphere endemic to a sports bar. The restaurant, at the base of a new residential tower on Tenth Avenue, emphasizes 'quality food' by acclaimed chef David Waltuck and is built around 'Clyde's style,' Weinstein notes. Frazier, now 67, famous in his day not only as an athlete, but as a flamboyant dresser, earned the nickname 'Clyde' after the natty protagonist of the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde. Now an announcer for the Knicks at Madison Square Garden near his new restaurant, Frazier recently decided he was ready 'for being out meeting and greeting.'

In a slam dunk, Morphosis's Thom Mayne turned to both Frazier's sartorial and sports interests to give the restaurant interiors a distinctive panache. But if you think that the 6-foot-4-inch Mayne might bring a special sports expertise to this commission, forget it. 'I was a horrible basketball player,' he says. 'It was embarrassing.' Nevertheless, he saw eye to eye with Frazier. 'We decided early on that all material patterns and the color palette in the restaurant should come from his clothes,' Mayne explains. 'When Thom saw the raw space,' Frazier recalls, 'you could see his mind percolating.'
 
Within the generic 10,000-square-foot rectangular room, which extends 182 feet between 37th and 38th Streets, Mayne put the restaurant at the south end, the bar in the middle, and a lounge at the north where the grade drops 5 feet. Inside the entrances at either end, the architect created what you might call Clyde-style columns as monumental gateways for the dining establishment. The clustered cylindrical columns, structural and fake, are sheathed in resin-covered digital images that were taken of Frazier in his exuberant attire. 'It's kind of an Egyptian pharaoh look,' says Frazier, grinning. Along the front of the restaurant, a translucent scrim of black-and-white photos from Frazier's Knicks days conceals smaller columns running just behind the glass and metal curtain wall of the street elevation.
 
The transformative feature in the room, however, is suspended from the ceiling, where a 170-foot-long assemblage of colorful, patterned, flat and folded aluminum fins floats over the dining area, bar, and lounge. Morphosis found the stripes, plaids, and prints for this polychromatic sculptural reef in Frazier's closets. The architects photographed their contents and, working with Zahner's metal fabricators, digitally printed images for a film adhesive applied to 544 aluminum panels of six shapes. The palette varies from blue to brown-gold to charcoal, with red painted undersides enhancing the gestalt. 'It's mesmerizing,' says Frazier.
 
The scintillating color scheme contrasts theatrically with the rest of the restaurant, which is rendered in low-key gray tones for the polished-charcoal concrete floors, resin countertops for the bar and open kitchen, and fake-fur banquettes. For sound insulation'deemed essential in a residential building'the architects hung an acoustical ceiling from the concrete deck. Below it they placed mechanical ducts, and under that the raft of architectonic fins.
 
'It's really a stage set,' says Mayne of the architectonic ceiling plane's surging spatial effects. Seeing this swooping metallic construction that resembles the multicolored feathers of a giant bird as it glides above the sloping space, you definitely sense you are not in a sports bar. Even as you take a sip of Posting & Toasting, a Clyde cocktail, you can go swish a shot in the court.

Total construction cost: withheld

Completion Date:  March 2012

Gross square footage: 
10,000 sq.ft.

Architect:
Morphosis Architects
153 W. 27th Street #1200
New York, NY 10001
Phone (212) 389 1171
Fax (424) 258-6299