In Situ

2015–ongoing San Francisco AccessoriesGraphicsIdentityObject

For In Situ at SFMOMA, a l m’s third project with Chef Corey LEE, we envisioned an identity concept that would express LEE’s desire to break with the reigning paradigm for museum cafés and restaurants, and offer instead an à la carte menu appealing to loyal locals as well as visitors passing through. The heart of this project is a master collection of recipes contributed by 80+ chefs from around the world. LEE’s curatorial gesture of selecting chefs is matched by a guarantee that the essence of each recipe will be respected and preserved in the way it is prepared and served at In Situ. a l m folded this respect for origins into an act of placemaking: dual gestures focused on conjuring the optimum conditions for restaging the works of these celebrated chefs.

a l m’s concept for In Situ turns on the notion of a signature recipe from anywhere in the world being inclined toward the local situation of San Francisco, so that the restaurant becomes a crossroads – a place of convergence and cultural exchange in an increasingly global gastronomical landscape. This idea led to the formal strategy. With an eye to map-making, a l m adopted the Mercator projection of the world demarcated into international time zones, but slightly disturbed by an axial tilt – a dislocation that hints at the shift from a recipe’s origins to its new situation at in situ. This tilt plays out in each design element, in various media and materials, from logo to menu, a signature plate produced by Rosenthal, apparel, environmental signage, library, ephemera, and website.

A subtle palette of blues and greys conjures the oceans that connect continents. The axial tilt informs the way the menu is organized and folded, but also the shape of In Situ’s signature sharing plate. If the dining table functions as a tableau for the in situ narrative, the layered wait staff apparel sets the story in motion. This narrative is enriched and expanded by the library, where cookbooks by invited chefs line shelves that echo the axial tilt. In lieu of signage on the street, a l m devised the shelving to include a sliver of illumination beckoning passersby from the street through the restaurant’s glazed facade – a gesture that embeds a subtle trace of the logo in the space.

To see the making of In Situ, view the film here.