OPN Architects transformed a historic building at the apex of one of Madison’s signature triangular blocks forming a ring around the city’s downtown capitol square. Originally a bank, the building was renovated and purposed many times over its 100-year history. Most recently an office building for the Isthmus newspaper, the century-old brick structure is now an 8,000-plus-square-foot bar and pizzeria.
A 1970s renovation had altered or covered many of the building’s historic characteristics. The team’s design goal was to restore and celebrate the building’s industrial structural qualities while adding an aesthetic that married Madison’s relaxed northern vibe, rock and roll, and whimsy. This was accomplished with the use of rich, soulful reclaimed materials and pops of modern elements. Madison restaurateurs Patrick Sweeney and Joshua Berkson, who also own the popular Merchant restaurant on the same block, describe the space as “an indoor/outdoor, double-decker, hi-fi American pizza venue.”
Because the building is located in downtown on the capitol square, it was extremely important it be open and visible from the exterior. Floor-to-ceiling windows completely fold open, opening the restaurant up to the outdoors and downtown streets. This design feature was very important as the building’s geographic location sits just off the square in a restaurant/entertainment district that is also adjacent to seasonal outdoor markets. The open atmosphere draws people into the space and becomes a focal point on the square and the entertainment district.
The open, exhibition-style kitchen, with the stone wood-fired pizza oven as the focal point, is also exposed to the outside. The space is also open from floor to the 27-foot-ceiling, with a 150-seat dining area on a mezzanine, opening up views to the first floor through a triangle-shaped balcony. A large, half-circle booth lines the back wall of the upper level. At the tip of the space, French doors open to an unobstructed view of the Capitol. In addition to the bar and pizza oven, the main floor has long communal tables that can be taken apart to create smaller sections. A lower level lounge, located in what was once a vault for Capital City Bank and later a furrier, seats another 30 to 40 people along a banquette bench that wraps around three sides of the vault.