I have a great affinity for beer halls, but haven't had the pleasure of being in one since Baltimore's Blob's Park fell to the great momentum of development in December. I was recently invited for drinks at the Radegast Hall & Biergarten in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. If you look beyond the overpriced beer selection (they have the smoked Marzen that tastes like liquid smoke—see Blob's Park post link) and the cooler-than-thou crowds lining the picnic benches, this is a structurally stunning building.
A vaulted room lined with picnic benches opens to the sky in warm weather. A small counter serves pretzels and sausages in the back. Next door, a massive bar centers a room with plenty of tables:
The interior design was done by a Czech artist and Williamsburg resident named Jirka Kolar through a company called D'art Enterprises. The company's Web site says that its interior approach works to establish the genus loci of a place, the special ambiance. In their own words:
If you desire the feeling of being in a space bubble, you choose a place that evokes such feeling in you. If you need the calmness of a spiritual place, you go to a temple. If you crave the experience of being in a French bistro, you find one that suites your mood. And that is exactly what Jirka Kolar & his D’Art Enterprises make happen.
Kolar specializes in patina. Here is a mural painted inside the Biergarten:
Here is an exterior from a French bistro in New York:
Kolar is also an artist—a painter and a photographer—and his personal work incorporates some of the same techniques used in his interior projects. He takes photos of cities and landscapes and imbues them with atmospheric layers: smoke, rain, haze, paint:
His Web site says that he "transforms urban landscapes into washed out scenes of urban decrepitude." Kolar juxtaposes odd images to create jarring compositions, like one piece where he melded a photo of smoke rising from the Twin Towers with butterflies. Interesting, then, that his interiors work is about developing just the right layers of grime and aging, while creating more of an opulence for diners looking to feast in an atmosphere of, dare I say it, "authenticity." It's almost as though his artwork mocks the spirit of his interior design work: the one uses patina to create darkness and disquietude, the other uses it to create a built environment meant to embrace and comfort.