Mexico City Design on the Menu at Brooklyn Taqueria

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mexican artist and engineer Ricardo Cid adapted the vintage "rotulo dorado" process for a latter-day Brooklyn cantina. (Courtesy Ricardo Cid)

The restaurant La Superior in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is small place with very high standards. Not only does it have the best tacos and salsa in the five boroughs, but its low-cost décor features design elements by Mexican engineer/designer Ricardo Cid that are as exciting as the food. Cid, from Mexico City, claims he always wanted to be an artist but one that used “different and more complicated tools and calculations,” so he studied engineering at Mexico City’s UNAM. The university gave Cid a research grant, and he used the money to move to New York City and begin an independent research practice focusing on “old and lost methods of Mexican manufacturing,” and adapting them to new materials when the old ones could not be found.

On the wall behind the bar where Superior owner Felipe Mendez mixes his superb margaritas, Cid created a crystal and mirror menu board from a process called “rotulo dorado” found in Mexican cantinas and taquerias in Mexico in the 1940s. The process was originally used by local craftsman called rotulaeors to produce signs that display “menus, rules, and things to remember.” Here, Cid replicated the glass board process by tracing a letter or figure with appliquéd golden tape, many with saturated colors, metallic textures, and pearled finishes. Cid has also designed wallpaper for Superior that replicates an old method of Mexican printing, again from the 1940s, which he says “is not precisely block printing but a combination between screen printing and matching.”

Cid's Word Cup tournament ladder recalls the geometric forms of an Aztec calendar.

What drew me to Cid’s extraordinary work was a tournament bracket showing the teams competing in last month’s World Cup, looking like some kind of contemporary Aztec calendar with geometric shapes in forced perspective. The bright red plastic in this football piece is another application seen in street markets and cantinas in Mexico City, where Cid says “it’s pretty common to find entire walls of colorful volumes that make no sense, but call the attention of the eye in a very ‘Naco’ style.” Naco, he claims, means something like tasteless, but with style at the same time. It’s not precisely kitsch, but is meant to make things more beautiful. The La Superior space is not necessarily exciting as an interior, but if you look around, it offers fascinating hybridized design elements that are the best of young new Brooklyn design.

One Response to “Mexico City Design on the Menu at Brooklyn Taqueria”

  1. James Way says:

    You mentioned this to me a few weeks ago and this only whets my appetite all the more. I like how it dispenses with pretension and goes for “what you see is what you get” vernacular festivity.

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