Creating Atmosphere

architecture / undergraduate research

Senyai Thai Restaurant in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood is a small 340 square foot space striving to create a unique atmosphere in a developing urban district of the city. The ceiling, inspired by the vaulted geometry of ancient Thai architecture, incorporates acoustic and lighting performance into a contemporary spatial experience with soft ambient effects. Visual layering of ceiling fins is suggestive of movement while reducing the reverberation of sound in individual vaulted zones, thus creating localized acoustic privacy for guests, as well as an overall dynamic visual experience.

The ceiling is formed by a digitally fabricated series of 275 unique vertical slats – no two slats, or vaults, are alike. The global texture of the surface and color plays with light to create a sense of spatial weightlessness and visual expansion, as the eye travels beyond each articulated edge. At the same time, the slats appear as a continuous surface, mimicking an active body of water, or, in homage to the restaurant’s name (sen yai translates to “big noodles” in Thai), a bowl of hot noodles in broth.

The project was designed and produced by Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture faculty Dana Cupkova and Gretchen Craig of EPIPHYTE Lab, with help from the student team of Trent Wimbiscus, Thomas Sterling, Colleen Clifford and Sinan Goral.

Read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette restaurant review.