Metal Architecture Home

Bakery Rebaked

Innovative interior creates continuity between the past and the present

Zuckers July18 1

The Columbus, The Mensch, The Leo and The Delancey. These are four egg sandwiches from Zucker’s Bagels & Smoked Fish, a well-known bakery in the New York City food scene that also specializes in pastries, homemade spreads, fresh-pressed juices and smoked fish. Already established in Tribeca and Midtown, the neighborhood bagel shop opened a new location on the Upper West Side to showcase these food items and also its hand-rolled and kettle-boiled authentic New York bagels daily, along with fresh ingredients from local New York vendors.

The new bakery is housed on two levels in a landmark building from 1888 on Columbus Avenue around the corner from the fabled Dakota Apartments and Central Park. Its design challenge was to celebrate the original metal features of the late 19th-century building in a way that evokes both the familiar and the new. New York City-based Ricardo Zurita Architecture & Planning (RZAPS) was responsible for this task. “We wanted to preserve a piece of American architectural history while creating continuity between the past and the present; to tell a story through time,” says RZAPS principal Ricardo Zurita.


During the design process, probes revealed longhidden, original, historic architectural metal elements both inside and outside the ground level space that were salvaged and restored for reuse in the space. These heritage features included a decorative pressed tin ceiling, ornate interior castiron columns and a cast-iron storefront exterior. The design challenge was to merge these with contemporary additions such as surfaces and furnishings made of new materials like blackened handcrafted stainless steel and white oak wood.

“The design goals for the bakery were twofold and interrelated: to create a layout and design that would accommodate the large amount of equipment, primarily of stainless steel, required for a specialized bakery, and to merge these functional requirements with a design esthetic that architecturally reinforced the authentically New York gastronomy offered by the establishment,” Zurita says. “By revealing the historical features of the space and combining them with contemporary materials and elements that place the activities, and products, of the bakery in a continuum of time between its origins and the present day.”

Black subway tile forms the back wall of the service area while the seating area has minimalist lighting and furnishings. The flooring consists of a sturdy gray porcelain tile. The interior was even updated with a luminous gold-leaf mural wall by Brooklyn-based artist David Bender that Zurita says introduces gold as another metal into the overall space. Because it is in the historic district, the project received approval from the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.



Upon discovering hidden original cast iron and tin elements, RZAPS introduced blackened steel as a new material in the space to complement the other metals and for its decidedly contemporary qualities.

“Blackened steel was chosen as the finish to enhance the appearance and to prevent discoloration over time,” says Martin Malek, partner at Rakshan Malek Associates: RMA Design and Construction, Woodcliff Lake, N.J., the project’s general contractor and metal installer. Metal plates form a free-standing wall in the center of deli and Malek says they are anchored by a condiment and trash bin cabinet. “Also, three vertical brackets fasten the wall to the floor and to align panels with each other,” he adds. “Fasteners join the panels with each other and we chose the newest we could find.”

The steel plates have the advantage of occupying minimal space with low-maintenance requirements, creating a clean esthetic in counterpoint to the intricate historical features. “We believed that the blackened patina finish allows coherence between the old and new metals,” Zurita says. The design and production of the new steel pieces was the result of a close collaboration with New York City-based Ferra Designs Inc., who is known for its high-quality, innovative approach to metal work. Zurita feels the high quality of the new finishes and their minimal, contemporary clean lines juxtaposes the historic features to create a visual palette that is both exciting and inviting.

Matt Pomerantz is the owner of the bakery and cofounder of Murray’s Bagels. “[Matt] has taken the same amount of pride with the aesthetics of the build out as he does with his product,” says Robert Ferraroni, president/CEO, of Ferra Designs, the bakery’s furnishings and metal supplier, the project’s fabricator, and also its custom lighting fabricator. “The marriage of high design and well-crafted food is consistent with the Zucker's model.”

Ferra Designs and 50A Projects [Ferra’s in-house design studio] designed and built all the metalwork throughout Zucker's. State-of-the-art technology combined with hand-applied finishes creates an unexpected, unique experience for the customer. Ferraroni admits navigating the project’s design ideas within such a small space was challenging. “We embraced the challenge and created seating and tables that bolted to the ground, this contained the aesthetic intent,” he says.

To enrich the original metal features, the detailed antiquities were juxtaposed with monolithic, minimalist metal plates such as countertops, a free-standing partition and furniture pieces. Two versions of steel were used: the countertops consisted of stainless steel (the ideal material for food handling) blackened with a patina finish, while all other vertical steel surfaces including the partition walls and furniture legs of the stools and tables consisted of carbon steel, also finished with the dark patina. All steel elements maintained a 3/8-inch thickness to keep the language of the modern pieces monolithic and to read as one clean counterpoint to the detailed heritage pieces.

Other materials in the deli were strategically kept in natural tones to provide a neutral backdrop for the new metal elements and the historic features. These materials include the brick wall that was revealed, the aforementioned natural white oak and neutral gray porcelain flooring. The storefront panels and door are wood painted black. The result celebrates metal techniques, processes and design across time in a small fragment of American architectural history.

Integrating large culinary equipment in the limited space, both in terms of layout and in creating coherence with the historic metal elements, was a challenge. “We decided to introduce steel as the main new material in the space for its inherent structural, functional and aesthetic qualities,” Zurita says. “Steel plates occupy minimal space, hide the heavy equipment, provide easy-to-maintain surfaces and create a clean aesthetic in counterpoint to the intricate heritage pieces. The new blackened steel lends a subdued presence to the space, mitigating a densely programmed space from feeling chaotic and cramped.”

Since opening, the bakery is now as well liked by New Yorkers as it is by the Design Award judges; it has become a neighborhood destination.