In downtown Manhattan, only a few blocks from the Lincoln Tunnel, is a development known as Hudson Yards. Spanning 28 acres in the Chelsea and Hudson Yards neighborhoods, the up-and-coming development currently incorporates 11 of 16 planned structures on the West Side, which sit on a platform built over the West Side Yard, a storage yard for Long Island Rail Road trains.
One of the structures, 10 Hudson Yards, is a 1.8 million-square-foot office building, which feeds directly into the High Line, a 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park, greenway and rail trail created on a former New York Central Railroad spur. Opened in 2016, the tower is currently home to an array of corporate tenants, including L’Oréal USA, SAP and Guardian Life Insurance. On the ground level sits the building’s much-anticipated tenant, Mercado Little Spain, a 35,000-square-foot food hall, developed by culinary experts, José Andrés and Ferran and Albert Adrià, which features an assortment of Spanish-made ceramic and porcelain tile from Vives Ceramica in Castellón, Spain.
Designed by Capella Garcia Arquitectura in Barcelona, Spain, the modern and avant-garde eatery aims to pay homage to both the culture and cuisine of Spain in the heart of Manhattan. “It was about bringing the spirit of Spanish food to the heart of Manhattan. Not only the Spanish products and recipes, but also the atmosphere in general,” said Juli Capella, co-founder of Capella Garcia Arquitectura. “The space is inspired by the Spanish markets, but also by Spanish streets, plazas and terraces. Eating and drinking is a celebratory and social act, which can have a more formal character — eating sitting at a table where you are served — or informally, where you choose what you want to eat.”
Capella worked closely with the client, ThinkFoodGroup, the company behind José Andrés’ group of restaurants, which has a mission “to change the world through the power of food.” “José Andrés, who has become a great ambassador for Spanish food in America, has been the great international promoter of ‘tapas,’ and in this place, he was very clear about what he wanted,” Capella explained. “Not only was he involved, but he directed and supervised the whole process. He also invited other renowned chefs, Ferran and Albert Adrià, to participate in the project, which was exciting.”
To bring the 35,000-square-foot space to life, almost two dozen different types of ceramic and porcelain tile from the Castellón-based manufacturer, Vives Ceramica, were employed on the walls, floors and bar fronts. “Each one was suitable for a specific area of application,” the designer said. “For example, reddish tones in the ham shop, and bluish tones and textures in the fish shop. In total, more than 20,000 square feet was used — not to mention the ceramics in the kitchens.”
Tile from Vives was selected because of the company’s wide range of decorative and practical options, according to Capella. “The use of ceramics is closely associated with the history of decoration in Spain. We are a country that produces high-quality ceramics and a lot of creativity. Therefore, from the beginning, we knew that the use of ceramics was going to be one of the main reasons for the place,” he explained. “We were analyzing several Spanish companies and Vives was very complete and attractive, allowing us to personalize the space with different motives in all of the different areas of the market. Moreover, by focusing on a single company (Vives), we managed to give coherence to the whole place, and at the same time, we facilitated the logistics of the project.
“All of the coverings and some flooring is from Vives and all of the countertops are from Dekton or Silestone from Cosentino, which is also Spanish,” he added. “There is also some hydraulic flooring, a very typical Spanish design, from El Mosaista, and the bathrooms are covered with selections from manufacturer, Roca Cerámica.”
In Mercado Little Spain, 10 main spaces feature tile, which presented an interesting design challenge for Capella and his team. “The main challenge of this space is that it is a gastronomic invention. It is neither a restaurant, nor a shop, nor a market. It is a mixture of many typologies with different uses, where there are 10 different spaces: ham, vegetables, fish, paellas, churros, cakes, sandwiches and three more formal spaces where you can sit,” Capella said. “All of this had to work facilitating the flow of visitors, but at the same time, allowing for a space of comfort. It had to be attractive and at the same time practical and commercial.”
The Mar Restaurant, which was designed to evoke memories of the sea, plays with different designs and blue tones to “create an environment full of freshness.” Contemporary, blue-washed, 14.4- x 89.3-cm (5.7- x 35.2-inch) wood-look porcelain tiles from the Faro collection in the “Yugo Cielo” design are complemented by 25- x 75-cm (9.8- x 29.5-inch) ceramic tiles from the Laterza collection in “Azul” and the decorative “Nevers Azul” design, which are featured on the walls and bar fronts. More traditional, 14.4- x 89.3-cm (5.7- x 35.2-inch) wood-look porcelain tiles from the Orsa collection in “Avellana” cover the floors of the dining area for the restaurant.
The Leña Restaurant, which also has a large footprint in the market, is designed with the World Woods porcelain tile series, combining the 22- x 38-cm (8.7- x 15-inch) rhombus format in “Adamant Nordland Beige” and “Adamant Okinawa Carbon” and the 19.2- x 119.3-cm (7.6- x 47-inch) rectangular format in all four shades offered, which create an original ceramic pattern in the central dining space. For the kitchen/prep area, 10- x 20-cm (3.9- x 7.9-inch) beveled ceramic tiles from the Morthier collection in the “Natural” white color clad the walls, while the 19.2- x 119.3-cm (7.6- x 47-inch) rectangular tiles from the World Woods’ collection in “Fremont-R Natural” were selected for the bar front and countertops.
The Bar Celona Cocktail bar displays a highly original combination of Vives’ ceramic woods, generating “a sophisticated and calming space at the same time,” according to Capella. The 23- x 26.6-cm (9.1- x 10.5-inch), hexagonal wood-look porcelain tiles from the Gamma collection stand out on the floor and were combined with complementary, 31- x 30-cm (12.2- x 11.8-inch) Milford Oro ceramic tiles from the Halsa series on the bar front and 21.8- x 89.3-cm (8.6- x 35.2-inch) decorative, wood-look porcelain tiles from the Efeso series in “Dion-R Blanco.”
In La Barra (“The Bar”), black and white tones reign supreme. On the walls and bar front, 20- x 50-cm (7.9- x 19.7-inch) polka-dotted ceramic tiles from the Blanco Mate collection in “Rimini” were used; on the bar fronts, 32- x 99-cm (12.6- x 39-inch) decorative “Manger” tiles, which feature images of forks, spoons and knives, accent the dotted design. The final touch is added with 10- x 20-cm (3.9- x 7.9-inch) ceramic wall tiles from the Rivoli series in the three-dimensional design, “Raspail Blanco,” which cover the columns — a daring stage with great personality for the tapas area.
Vinos, the Spanish wine bar, was a vital area of the culinary project. One of the most visually appealing areas, it’s highlighted with a range of colorful, three-dimensional tile from the Rivoli series. Around 10 different designs of the 10- x 20-cm (3.9- x 7.9-inch) ceramic wall tiles, with the white and red “Raspail Blanco” and “Raspail Cereza” models were utilized, creating an incredibly unique design. The different reliefs are “a commitment to traditional beauty from a modern perspective,” Capella said.
For the Bocatas (“Sandwiches”) & Empanadas section, 59.3- x 59.3-cm porcelain tiles from the Strand series were used. Inspired by OSB (oriented strand board), with an interesting decorative addition, the series was used on the walls and bar front. Combining the red-and-OSB designs, “Seriaki-R Natural Rojo” and “Nenets-R Natural Rojo,” you get a “striking and urban result at the same time, in tune with the city that never sleeps,” according to Capella.
One of the most recognizable designs of Vives covers the Frutas & Verduras (“Fruits & Vegetables”) space, which highlights decorative, 20- x 20-cm (7.9- x 7.9-inch) encaustic cement-like porcelain tiles from the Vodevil collection. The octagonal-shaped tiles from the “Variette Sombra” design, with their intricate black and white lines, immediately attract attention in the bar and preparation area.
In the Jamón & Queso (“Ham & Cheese”) section, which showcases whole legs of Ibérico and other varieties of cured Spanish ham, reddish tones were used to coordinate with the products. Smaller 10- x 20-cm (3.9- x 7.9-inch) “Tasty Cherry” wall tiles adorn the inner part of this space, while the bar front features 14.4- x 89.3-cm (5.7- x 35.2-inch) red-washed, porcelain wood-look tiles from the Faro collection in “Yugo-R Volcan.”
With a design that emulates the original food trucks seen throughout Spain, the Churros & Bravas section features red body ceramic tiles from the Etnia collection in “Blanco” in different formats (10 x 20 cm, 13 x 13 cm and 20 x 20 cm) in contrast to the red metal that covers its exterior surfaces.
Standing out for its clear tones and luminosity, the Pasteles & Helados (“Cakes & Ice Cream”) zone incorporates 14.4- x 89.3 cm (5.7- x 35.2-inch) porcelain wood-look tiles from the Efeso collection in “Efeso-R Blanco” and 20- x 20-cm (7.9 x 7.9-inch), encaustic cement-like porcelain tiles from the Maori collection in the “Tiebele” design, which are featured on the bar front and back walls. On the floor, 30- x 30-cm (11.8- x 11.8-inch) porcelain tiles from the terrazzo-inspired Farnese series in the “Amalfi Beige,” “Amalfi Grafito” and “Cavour Cemento designs” were combined to create original symmetrical designs that separate the different areas.
A selection of Vives’ tile was also used for the signage, as well as the Spanish Diner, a restaurant attached to the central market that serves larger portions of Spanish favorites. The Spanish Diner, which embraces an indoor-outdoor concept with more than two dozen tables, is truly reminiscent of a café in the middle of a plaza somewhere in Spain. The 20- x 20-cm (7.9- x 7.9-inch) porcelain concrete-look tiles from the World Streets collection used on the floor feature floral and geometric designs only seen on the ancient concrete streets of Barcelona and other popular Spanish cities. The handful of decorative tile designs, including “Acorn,” “Norvins” and “Paulista,” temporarily transport visitors to the streets of Spain, providing an authentic ambiance. On the main bar front, colorful floral patchwork tile from the Aranjuez series was utilized. The 20- x 20-cm (7.9- x 7.9-inch) ceramic tiles were employed in the “Patchwork-12” design, which incorporate more than a handful of different types of floral designs in shades of red, pink and green, much like the handmade tiles that populate various cafés, restaurants and residences throughout Spain. On the walls behind the bar and other main areas, ceramic tiles from the Etnia collection were used in “Etnia Blanco” in three different formats: 10 x 20 cm (3.9 x 7.9 inches), 13 x 13 cm (5.1 x 5.1 inches) and 20 x 20 cm (7.9 x 7.9 inches).
Altogether, the project took around three years to complete. To ensure the design was up to par, Capella and his team made six trips from Spain to New York throughout the entire process. “The first one was a big impact visiting the space in Hudson Yards under the tracks; it was very exciting,” Capella said. “Later, the concern was to see that the project was fitting in that place, where the facilities ended up eating up a lot of space and lowering the ceiling a lot. The final concern was to undertake the finishing details, but above all, to correct the lighting because that’s the only thing you can’t control on the computer, no matter how much you’ve planned for it in the project. In the end, you always end up realizing that there’s either too much or too little light somewhere.”
Since the project’s completion, it has received rave reviews from critics and visitors alike, and was also awarded a 2020 Coverings Installation & Design Award in the “Commercial Tile Design, Hospitality” category.
“From a commercial point of view, it was an immediate success,” Capella said. “People loved discovering genuine Spanish food, not adapted to the U.S., but as it is eaten in Spain, and differentiating it from Mexican or South American food. From a design point of view, I think Mercado Little Spain has also managed to establish itself as an innovative space, where people find a friendly and fun atmosphere. The circulations work and each visitor finds his or her own special place, whether they come alone, as a couple, with friends, to eat, shop, celebrate, with different budgets and expectations. In short, it is a flexible, varied and welcoming space dedicated to the Spanish way of life.”
Mercado Little Spain
New York, NY
Architect: Capella Garcia Arquitectura, Barcelona, Spain
Tile Suppliers: Vives Ceramica, Castellón, Spain (Aranjuez, Blanco Mate, Efeso, Etnia, Farnese, Faro, Gamma, Halsa, Laterza, Maori, Morthier, Orsa, Rivoli, Strand, Tasty Cherry, Vodevil, World Streets, World Woods); Cosentino, Cantoria, Almería, Spain (Dekton and Silestone used on countertops); Mosaista, Madrid, Spain; Roca Cerámica, Barcelona, Spain