pie replaces panettone in milan this april, as america’s archetypal roadside restaurant makes a unexpected and exciting appearance during design week. in celebration of its 25th anniversary, leading american design magazine surface unveils ‘the diner’ in collaboration with new york-based architect david rockwell. visitors will be immersed in four unique scenographic tableaus, each which adopt both culture and cuisine as reference points for distinctive, diner-inspired environments. 


‘diners are uniquely american and enduring in our cultural iconography,’ rockwell says. ‘our goal is to capture the restaurant’s inherently optimistic and democratic spirit that draws people of all backgrounds to create a welcoming, lively, engaging, and fun environment.’

surface diner rockwell milan
coming soon: surface magazine presents ‘the diner’ in collaboration with david rockwell 
image by claudio grassi



for ‘the diner’, surface worked with designer/hospitality and scenography expert david rockwell and the LAB at rockwell group. together, they created four distinctive atmospheres that contemporarily reinterpret archetypal diner experiences. visitors first find an entrance inspired by an airstream — quintessential retro roadside architecture — which serves up fresh coffee and homestyle pie. inside, an east coast–style luncheonette offers classic diner fare. in a third segment of the space, branded grilled cheese sandwiches will be served inside a room that nods to diner milieus of the midwest. the experience wraps up with a relaxed west coast lounge concept.


surface also tapped new york city-based design studio 2×4 to devise the diner’s graphic identity, creating custom fonts, signage, and menus. ‘outside of the U.S, many would say one of america’s distinctive qualities is optimism — an endless appetite for openness, possibility, and potential,’ describes susan sellers, creative director and partner at 2×4. ‘I would say that american identity is currently challenged. we wanted to capture that paradox in the diner’s identity.’

surface diner rockwell milan
the installation adopts diner culture and cuisine as reference points for distinctive environments
images by kelsey mcclellan, styling by michelle maguire



open for seven consecutive days — from april 17–22, 2018 — at via ferrante aporti 11, ‘the diner’ provides visitors with a space to rest, recharge, eat and engage in critical cultural discussion. forming part of the ventura centrale exhibition at warehouses underneath milan’s central station, the site will host a series of talks in the daytime, and in the evening will transform into a club with parties and performances.


‘I couldn’t be more excited to be partnering with david rockwell and 2×4,’ says surface editor-in-chief spencer bailey. ‘bringing this powerhouse team to the international stage during the world’s largest design and furniture fair is the perfect way to celebrate surface ’s 25th anniversary.’ find out more about the project and how to collaborate by emailing [email protected].