A Clockwork Orange aficionados will recognize Korova as the name of the milk bar where the droogs hung out when not kicking the stuffing out of homeless tramps. A Russian farmer would recognize it as a word for cow. Parisians will know it as the latest “in” place, a trendy restaurant/bar to flirt in–assuming they can afford the Manhattan-style prices (the $20 poulet roti fermier au Coca-Cola is one of the cheapest dishes on the tres chic menu).
Conceived by TV talk-show host Jean-Luc Delarue and nightclub king Hubert Boukobza–think Jay Leno and Steve Rubell–Korova was designed by Christian Biecher, a rising French architect, whose ten-year career includes a stint as visiting professor of architecture at Columbia University. Biecher took a difficult space–a long and narrow 4,800-square-foot ground-floor property in a standard 19th-century Haussmannian building on the fashionable rue Marbeuf, off the Champs-Elysees–and created four distinct zones, each with its own ambience. From a front cafe area, scenesters make their way easily to the bar, and through the restaurant, ending up in what Biecher describes as a chill-out room. Despite their different functions, the spaces are united, as the designer puts it, by “an underlying homogeneity, involving translucence and luminosity.”
While many trendy modern venues inflict harsh halogen lighting on a consequently pallid, sweating clientele, the glow throughout Korova is natural–via daylight and candlelight–or indirect and filtered. It shines through backlighting or by way of fiber optics embedded in the floors, ceiling, and wall partitions; it beams from spots and table lamps of Murano glass; it pours out of opaque domes in the off-white ceilings; it snakes through neon tubing. Even the sunlight admitted through the front cafe’s opaque screens receives a softening treatment courtesy of the sandblasted Plexiglas beads that cover the cafe area walls.
While the combination of subtle lighting and soft colors with reflective surfaces creates the impression of more space than actually exists, Biecher augmented the illusion of volume with devices such as undulating walls and translucent partitions, deliberately avoiding right angles and other sudden obstacles to patrons’ sight lines.
The most spacious of the four areas, the glass-fronted cafe, is redolent of traditional French bar-tabacs, with their glazed terraces and small round tables, but it is not quite retro. Key to Biecher’s vision for this room is his subtle use of evocative references that fall short of actually plagiarizing the past. Next comes the bar area, a convocation of low ice-green Poltrona Frau-leather seating, pearl-gray and powder-pink Corian tabletops, and a luminous bar front, which casts hypnotic silhouettes of drinkers on the room’s wavy surfaces. The undulating walls change color to suit the mood or even the tempo of the DJ’s music when Korova morphs into a mini-nightclubin the small hours. From here patrons move through the soporific orange of the candelit restaurant to the club-inspired of chill-out room featuring back-litwalls, low ceiling low sofas and light blue leather armchairs and pouffes, all arranged around a circular aquarium straight out of a tacky 1970s James Bond movie.
Although Korova is all up-to-the moment modern it does look a bit like the future as Kubrick, or maybe the Star Trek set designers might have imagined it 80 years ago. And many people assumed when they saw the bar’s name, that Beicher’s concept was informed by A Clockwork Orange, a belief the staff make little effort to dispel. Was Biecher a Kubrick die-hard influenced by the film? Not at all the architect protests. If I was then it was subconscious. Some friends of lean-LuoDelarue came up with the name. But you know they had to call it something”.