by Akash SinghAug 21, 2023
It is intriguing how inspirations are not baulked by the constraints of mediums and rather translate from one to next almost effortlessly, yet unpredictably. People become art, and art yields design and architecture—and the traces of one's inspiration permeate through a myriad interpretations. Renowned Spanish artist Pablo Picasso’s oeuvre is a cumulation of influences he gathered from his life, one prominent muse being his second wife Jacqueline Roque. During the span of their marriage, Picasso created over 400 portraits of Roque derived by her beauty. Her first artistic presence marked in 1954 started off a series of paintings carrying recurring symbols—exaggerated neck and feline face, distortions of Roque's features, dark eyes and eyebrows, high cheekbones, and classical profile—that made frequent appearances in his artowrk later. This very repository fuelled by adoration has now become muse for a maximalist restaurant in Barcelona, befittingly labelled Jacqueline.
The design of Jacqueline is conceived by leading interdisciplinary architecture and design firm Rockwell Group, inspired by Picasso’s portraits of his muse and second wife while paying homage to the artist’s beloved atelier. The three-storey restaurant design in the burgeoning Eixample district of the city is a juxtaposition of neat Art Nouveau details—a distinctive presence in the city of Spain—with the surreal forms of Picasso’s artworks to contrive an interior design that conforms to the vibrancy of the Catalonian city. The project led by Greg Keffer, partner and studio leader at Rockwell Group New York and Eva Longoria, principal and studio leader of Rockwell Group's Madrid office, channels the various portraits of Jacqueline, envisioning its intricate details and hues through the furniture design and finishes. "Our design concept for the space was inspired by the extravagant, eccentric style of Jacqueline Roque, Pablo Picasso’s muse and second wife, as well as Picasso’s beloved atelier where so much of his work was created,” says Longoria.
The space is spread across three floors on Enric Granados, counted among Barcelona’s most iconic streets. "Our design reflects Jacqueline’s extravagance and eccentricity, as well as the golden age of Catalan Modernism. We wanted to foster lively, memorable social experiences that provide an atmosphere where people might talk passionately about art, music, history in the heart of the city,” shares Longoria. A bold design that layers meanings, symbols and textures set in motion conversations that inquire about art. Every room at the restaurant is inspired by a different portrait of Jacqueline—the colour palette and materials reflecting the essence and elements of each painting.
The ground floor reinterprets the colourful and sensual 1955 portrait Woman in a Turkish costume seated in a chair. Depicted as "a woman of the harem," Jacqueline proudly wears an odalisque costume—its reds, yellows and blues emulated in the Turkish-inspired interiors. From the entry vestibule, visitors arrive at a dramatic room leading to the main dining area. Past this space, deep velvet blue curtains open to the Entry Bar, which is marked by bronze and antique mirrors and a stained-glass window. Guests then move through the Padded Room; an intimate lounge donned in Turkish tapestry. A palm tree structure constructed out of bronze metal and green, mirrored glass—inspired by the palm trees outside of Picasso’s original atelier—mirrors a canopy over the sushi bar counter. The Turkish motif is observed on the columns, walls and ceiling, with a mix of art nouveau, classical pieces and geometric elements.
The second floor of the restaurant is accessed through the vestibule’s open stair—a sculptural design showcasing a custom runner and an art nouveau-inspired handrail in dark bronze metal that meanders up to the champagne bar to transform into an armature for a chandelier. The first-floor bar is dressed entirely in rosy, floral motifs, referencing Jacqueline with Flowers (1954)—a portrait of Jacqueline in a crouched, ‘sphinx-like’ position on a red sofa with flowers and greenery in the background. “The bar features a resin die filled with champagne-like bubbles. Plaster flowers painted in a range of pinks and purples cover the walls and ceiling, adding a wild but delicate element to the space,” Longoria explains. The walls and doors of the restroom are adorned in a custom wall covering inspired by vintage art nouveau posters, while the dramatic vanity mirrors are surrounded by metal peacock 'feathers.'
The third floor takes on the contemporary portrait of Roque dubbed Woman in a Mantilla Red Background (1959). The painting inspires the Club area, situated in the lower-level floor. The portrait depicts Jacqueline in a traditional black lace shawl over her head and shoulders against a vivid red backdrop. Striking colour contrasts become the identity of the club immersed in red—reflective red ceiling, red columns, and backlit laser cut metal screens along the walls—reminiscent of the mantilla’s lace.
“Narrative has always been the fundamental link across all our work. We begin every project by thinking about the client’s point of view and backstory and how these elements can frame the experience from the moment guests walk in the door to when they leave. With Jacqueline, we really wanted to bring guests on a journey, where each new space was a surprise and a discovery, and unlike the space before it,” Longoria comments. As visitors transition from one space to the next, they encounter a series of different expressions that nudge them into a different experience. The main dining room recreating the lush environment that was a creative backdrop of Picasso’s life to spatial translations of his passionate artistic endeavours not only perpetuate the admiration he felt for his muse but inject curiosity into the guests’ minds—paying homage to the creative spirit through the abounding vibrance.