At Morimoto, the namesake restaurant of celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto, the focus is culinary. So when Isometrix Lighting + Design was asked to illuminate the chef's new Manhattan venue, it unified disparate materials and embraced the asymmetrical layout to create a cohesive, comfortable atmosphere for this multi-level dining experience.

The restaurant was designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando, an avowed minimalist, and the lighting respects his aesthetic. "It is about illuminating things in a hidden way," says lighting designer Gerardo Olvera. Materials range from concrete to gold leaf, and the lighting embraces this diverse palette of color and texture.

One of the restaurant's most compelling features is a resin-filled fabric ceiling, which signifies the first time Ando has worked outside his signature all-concrete material palette. Floating over the 160-seat dining room, the tent-like enclosure provides a unifying element for the different seating configurations. The undulating folds of the material are lit with high-intensity PAR56 projectors concealed above the ceiling and AR70 stemlights poking through, producing a play of light and shadow. Xenon striplights fill the gaps between the ceiling's main "seams" and cast a restrained glow over the entire dining area.

Another of the restaurant's focal elements is its clever play on a water feature. A double-height "water wall," which anchors the main stair leading to the downstairs bar and lounge areas, is comprised of over 17,000 horizontally suspended amorphous-shaped water bottles--designed by British industrial designer Ross Lovegrove for water company Tynant--forming a life-sized Lite-Brites board. LEDs embedded within the two-bottle-deep wall range in color from 3200K to 5000K and are inserted length-wise into every third row of bottles, creating a pattern of cool and warm white light. The water within the bottles diffuses the LEDs, and the overall effect is a sparkling vertical chandelier.

A second bottle wall acts as the backdrop for the downstairs bar, where the challenge was to create a sense of unity, since xenon-filled lamps, tungsten halogen, and LEDs were all at play. Isometrix married the industrial clear resin of the bar countertop and the red-painted clapboard lounge walls through the lighting. Purple LEDs are embedded in the custom counter, and the clapboard is illuminated with cold cathode.

Balancing the diversity of light sources and color temperatures was a major challenge for this design. The result is a solution that reinforces the architectural composition, celebrates the material palette, and creates a memorable fine-dining experience.

Jury Comments

  • The rich materials contribute to what is clearly an exciting dining experience.
  • The illuminated ceiling is a beautiful element.
  • An inventive and accomplished lighting solution.
  • I feel like it could be really magical and amazing. The ethereal materials will make the space dynamic.
  • There's much more going on in terms of the use of light to create surface, texture, and levels of translucency.


Project Location New York
Architect Tadao Ando Architect & Associates, Tokyo
Lighting Designer Isometrix Lighting + Design, London
Additional Designers/Consultants Goto Design Group; Guggenheimer Architects; Thomas Polise Consulting Photographer Gerardo Olvera/Isometrix
Project Size 8,645 square feet
Watts per Square Foot 7 (approx.)
Manufacturers A&L; Ardee Lighting (linear xenon details); AtLite; Bartco Lighting; Belfer; B-Light; Electrix; Exterieur Vert; Halo Lighting; io Lighting (LED linear lighting details); Lamar Lighting; Litelab (stem lights and gimbal downlights); Lucifer Lighting (downlights); Times Square Lighting (track heads and projectors); W.A.C.