Location: San Francisco

Contractor: Ian Tallon, Northern Sun Associates, San Francisco

Designer: Aidlin Darling Design, San Francisco

The owner of this nouvelle barbecue restaurant in San Francisco’s financial district says that the response to his eatery wouldn’t have been so powerful without this dramatic transformation of the building. “It’s kick-started his business,” says Joshua Aidlin, who was on the project’s design team.

Built in 1914, the building occupies a small space between a historic masonry facade and a 1980s midrise building.

The designers used four primary elements to create a warm and light-filled space: the canopy, a dynamic undulating ceiling installation formed from MDF wood composite fin profiles; an agrarian palette of rift-sawn oak and zinc; a neutral ribbon of white walls and various elements that create an extension of space in the small dining room; and a scrim — a translucent fabric — that filters and transforms the natural light.

While the judges were impressed with the canopy, they commented that “it’s really about the whole space, which has a powerful anthropomorphic quality that draws you in.” One judge said, “It feels like I’m relating to something that breathes.”

“Some people go ‘wow’ at the ceiling sculpture, and some don’t,” Aidlin says. “It’s a metaphor for the smoke and the bones.”