by Jerry ElengicalMay 10, 2022
Palais de Tokyo is one of the most important and largest spaces to host temporary exhibitions of contemporary art in France. As an art and cultural landmark in Paris, the Palais de Tokyo is also home to Bambini, a restaurant by the Paris Society family and designed by Friedmann & Versace. The French interior design studio, helmed by namesake Virginie Friedmann and Delphine Versace, is known for its ability to design unique "art of living" spaces. Its conception and execution of the restaurant design of the Bambini chain of trattorias is a reflection of the duo's ability to sinuously blend different styles and materials. While located in France, Bambini is a celebration of Italian cuisine, beauty and life. Located in Paris and Megève, the restaurants are envisioned as a 'theatre of art'.
La dolce vita, while it translates to a sweet life, has come to be associated with the idea of a picturesque life in Italy. The evolution of the expression can be attributed in no small part to Italian filmmaker, Federico Fellini's 1960 movie La Dolce Vita. Much like Fellini’s cinematic vocabulary, Friedmann and Versace’s design for Bambini Paris unfolds as one explores the interiors. The notion of creating an atmosphere is celebrated and captured in a bohemian and elegant décor. Invocating the festive, theatrical, and traditional aspects of Italian living, the studio has drawn on the richness of Italian craftsmanship and design to create a dialogue between eras and styles. Antique artefacts with the contemporary material, the classical order juxtaposed with whimsy. The synergy of artistic experimentation, attention to detail and customised furniture design create a strong visual and experiential language that is both playful and refined.
One of the central ideas for Bambini Paris was the essence of a garden. This is omnipresent and is found implicitly in the spaces and decorative elements of the restaurant. The frescoes, fabrics, pictorial elements, and trellis, all act as a means to lighten the volume of the structure of the building. The garden is also a reference to ancient Rome, where gardens use to be a place of gathering and conversation. The expansive interior volume is further lightened by giant hanging chandeliers, and a mix of high and low tables, with interior and furniture details that incorporate organic forms and curves to give the space an enveloping and warm feeling.
The entire space is furnished with custom-designed furniture. Two large solid wood tables are supported by two sculpted columns and pay homage to Casa Malaparte, the iconic villa conceived by Italian architect Adalberto Libera, on the island of Capri. A large sienna marble bar creates the junction between the two dining areas. Warm accents with large modular tables act as an invitation for conversations and meetings. An extra-large pizza oven is a culmination of the orchestrated Italian atmosphere on the inside. Outside, on the square in front of the Palais de Tokyo, the table setup is ideal for an aperitivo and some cicchetti.
Two frescos define the artistic décor of the restaurant. Roberto Ruspoli, known for its refined and timeless pictorial representations, has created a fresco evoking abundance, generosity and moments shared through a festive banquet. The second fresco is made by the Ceramics of Beaujolais and references the Gardens of Livia. With glass from Murano, rattan and marble from Sienne, plaster, ceramics and carpets inspired by marbled paper from Venice, Friedmann and Versace have combined elegant and natural materials to create a playful and sophisticated decor, evocative of dolce vita, in not one but two different French locations.
At Megève, a mountain-side commune in Southeastern France is another version of Bambini’s Italian lifestyle. Compared to the Parisian restaurant, the Megève’s interior has a warm and friendly atmosphere. Using raw materials, natural tones, and thick fabrics embroidered with mountain motifs with references to Tyrolean handicrafts, Friedmann and Versace showcase two versions of the sweet Italian life.
Connecting history and place through arts and crafts, Bambini Megève is furnished with a mix of wickerwork, wool work, and traditional chairs. The pizza oven is just as large and impressive as the one in Paris but is clad in green ceramic. Exuding a folksy spirit is present the restaurant uses Mulberry and Ralph Lauren tartan prints. A large sign referencing the movie Twin Peaks is a nod to David Lynch and ties both the Bambini locations together with their cinematic references.