Taking green design to a veritably literal level, Atera’s living wall is both a statement piece and a decorative component at the newly opened restaurant in NYC’s Tribeca neighborhood. “We based the restaurant’s design on Matt’s approach to cooking food,” explains Andrew Cohen of the design firm Parts and Labor, referring to Atera’s executive chef Matthew Lightner. Lightner is known for highlighting freshly foraged and indigenous ingredients.
The result, an 8’x8′ green panel set against a sinuous, dark steel wall, is lush with herbs and plants, something like the ultimate herb garden, only sideways. It includes rosemary, mint, thyme, jasmine, fruity sage, lavender, lime, rose nutmeg and lemongrass. “We wanted to create a completely sensory experience—one that changed how you physically felt,” adds Cohen, noting that the greenery and its aromas became an inventive solution to the restaurant’s intimate size (it has only 18 seats). “Sitting at the bar and then sitting at the table becomes two different experiences,” he says.
To create the living wall, a first-time challenge for Cohen and his partner, Jeremy Levitt, the duo filled modular compartments with plants wrapped in felt and burlap pouches. The density of the foliage conceals most of this handiwork. The wall requires constant maintenance, Cohen adds, which is why the modular compartments are so necessary: the plants can be switched out in rotation with others growing in the restaurant’s basement greenhouse.