Saladang Song is a Thai restaurant located on a major arterial street in a mixed commercial-industrial neighborhood south of Old Pasadena. “Song,” which means “two” in Thai, is located next door to the original Saladang, which has been one of the city’s most popular restaurants for many years. The client, ‘Dang’ for short, is a Thai woman who immigrated to Los Angeles. In many ways, she occupies two worlds, bringing a strong sense of Thai cultural values into the context of Los Angeles. She has developed a loyal clientele by offering refined versions of traditional Thai dishes, a kind of abstraction of her native cuisine.
The design responds to her cross-cultural condition in a variety of ways. The building is conceived as a courtyard, an idea suggested by the traditional Thai sala. The sala is a simple roadside pavilion for resting and eating. Saladang Song, then, roughly translates as “Dang’s second retreat.” Los Angeles’ identity has been constructed around ideas of mobility, transience and consumer culture, and architecture has frequently accepted and celebrated this mythology. Saladang Song is conceived as a place of rest and reflection within the distracted life of the city. In a formal inversion, here the patio dining is placed at the front of the building, opposite the parking lot entry, which is at the rear.
The main components of the program are: outdoor and indoor dining, a large open kitchen, storage, and office spaces. Another aspect of the program, in the tradition of family-owned restaurants in Asia and Europe, was the request for a living space on top of the restaurant, including a rooftop garden. The patio dining is bound by a screen wall, offering a sense of protection while maintaining a strong relationship to the flow of traffic in the street. The screen wall is made of vertically cantilevered concrete slabs and laser-cut steel screens. The idea of a “textile” screen was informed by the client’s interest in traditional Thai fabrics. The slabs were built using a modified version of standard tilt-up construction. The laser-cut steel screens were patterned after textiles, but the designs have been abstracted and transformed by their method of production.
9,600 SF building area
23,000 SF site area
Wallaporn “Dang” Vattanatham
Peter Tolkin, John R. Byram, Christopher Girt, Craig Rizzo, Anthony Denzer
Kurily Szymanski Tchirkow, Inc. (Structural); Khalifeh & Associates (mechanical, electrical, plumbing); Herb Cooper (Civil); Jerry Kovacs & Associates (Geotechnical)
Eddie Effron (Lighting); Wet Design (Fountain)
2005 Honor Award, American Institute of Architects; 2002 Certificate of Recognition, California State Assembly; 2001 Citation Award, American Institute of Architects; 2001 Restaurant Design Award, Finalist, James Beard Foundation; 2001 Award of Merit, Pasadena Beautiful Foundation
In collaboration with John R. Byram as Tolkin + Byram & Associates