In 1960, notable textile artist and interior designer Alexander Girard brought to life La Fonda del Sol, a Latin-American-themed restaurant located on the ground floor of the Time & Life Building in New York City. Commissioned by innovative restaurateur Joseph Baum, Girard designed the opulent interior, evocative of a contemporary branded space, to transport guests to an imagined world through extraordinary decoration and attention to detail.
La Fonda del Sol was a symbol of Latin America visualized through bold geometric patterns and vibrant color combinations. Girard designed nearly all the visual elements of the restaurant from matchboxes and tableware to menus and typography among many others.He drew inspiration from personal interest in Latin culture and history, and his passion for the art and ritual of dining. In collaboration with Girard, Charles and Ray Eames designed the La Fonda pedestal chairs for the space with a shorter seat height to allow direct view of the tableware.
The restaurant featured a melding of cultures represented through elements including a Mexican ceramic tile fountain, marble from Cuba, carved wooden doorways from Brazil, and a Pre-Columbian stylized sun motif that hung above the adobe-enclosed cocktail lounge. Objects from his extensive personal collection of Central and South American folk art adorned the walls and he insured great care was taken to represent the cultures with detail and respect.
In 1962, the Architectural League of New York awarded Girard for his execution of La Fonda del Sol. While the restaurant closed nearly a decade later, Alexander Girard continues to be celebrated for his unique design sensibility and the lush, immersive environments he produced.
“What I like to call 'aesthetic functionalism' is indispensable in any surrounding where the average individual is to live—not like a human machine merely sleeping, eating, drinking—but also seeing, touching and remembering familiar associations; all of which I believe are of far greater importance than our purely practical functions in life.”