Trader Vic’s, Scottsdale

The design challenge was to create an iconic freestanding restaurant on the grounds of a recently renovated mid-century modern hotel set in the urban fabric of Scottsdale, Arizona.

The structure was to house a restaurant whose concept has its historical roots in the 1940s-50s, steeped in the Polynesian pop culture of post-war America. The architecture and interior design reinterprets and reinvents the restaurant in modernist terms while paying homage to its history, the Trader Vic’s image and direct design inspiration from the adjacent hotel.

The building occupies a corner of the hotel property and is sited diagonally ensuring a strong presence on two streets. This diagonal orientation also organizes the entry axis from the street corner into the hotel proper allowing easy access for the hotel guest as well as the off-site patron.

The entry axis, in turn, informs the plan bisecting the building’s mass and defining its two distinct uses. The first is a non-fenestrated “box,” housing the kitchen, service, restrooms and back-of-house functions. In contrast, the other is a naturally-lit, transparent dining pavilion and includes a “lava cone” hub featuring reception area, bar and lounge and logo sales area. The axis is expressed internally through immense authentic hand-carved monumental “tikis” that punctuate the edge of the axis and further define dining and circulation space. The “tikis” are sky-lit in the daytime and top-lit at night to draw the eye up and show the relationship between the curving soffits and the steel roof structure. A glass enclosed wood-fired Chinese oven is also showcased along the axis.


Inside, the lava cone hub acts as an enclosure for arriving guests and maitre’d while allowing access to the dining spaces and bar. The bar is spatially defined by a red steel tube trellis that “floats” beneath the roof structure and continues through the exterior glass where it covers the bar’s lanai. The trellis and the use of fully operable sliding glass walls work together to blur the line between outside and inside spaces.

The transparency between inside and out is enhanced by the use of a similar color palette on finishes and furnishings throughout the project. The exposed grey concrete block along with the stained concrete extends from the entry into the dining spaces and contrasts with the bright greens, oranges and soft golds on the seating.

The main dining space is creatively sub-divided into smaller, more intimate spaces on the periphery by massive battered masonry walls. Sliding glass doors allow these spaces to open directly onto exterior dining lanais. Masonry walls, corrugated translucent panels and lush landscaping give the lanais privacy and act as a view backdrop for the interior spaces.
An elegant mix of honed masonry, exposed steel, sliding and fixed glass and integral-colored concrete make up the majority of the material palette, while natural lava, bamboo, channel glass, tapas cloth and glass tile used in conjunction with mica-chip stucco finishes add richness. Authentic art and artifacts from the South Pacific complete the composition and help “take the guest away”.


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