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Restaurante LEO

REFUGIO Arquitectura

Bogotá D.C., Cundinamarca, Colombia

July 2021


Julián David Molina Rico (Principal, Senior Architect)


Connie Zambrano Alvarado (Architect), Sebastián Bayona Jaramillo (Architect), María del Carmen Martínez (Administrative Coordinator), ClaroOscuro (Lighting Design), Z2 S.A.S. (General Contractor




Simon Bosch Photography


LEO, chef Leonor Espinosa’s signature restaurant, was originally established in 2005 in a dilapidated street in Bogota´s downtown financial district. She cultivated recognition and success in a setting that over time prospered with her. Her restaurant was ranked and rapidly ascended to be labelled among the best in Latin America, the best in Colombia, as well as earning her the title of Best Female chef in 2022.
The building guards an intimate, carefully curated culinary experience that epitomizes decades of anthropological knowledge and knowhow derived from countless travels to remote regions of Colombia. Through the ingredients articulated in each stage of the tasting menu chef Leonor showcases to both local and foreign dinners, the extent of the country’s biodiversity, indigenous and Afro-Colombian traditions and cultures. The project needed to be a vessel that consistently prioritized and enhanced the dining experience, it desires to be the backdrop to the imagery and imagination derived from unique flavors and the rich geographical narratives that accompany every plate.
The program called for a formal main dining room and open kitchen, La Sala de Leo and a new, casual, adjoining bar and smaller kitchen curated by Leo´s sommelier daughter, collaborator and associate, Laura. The spaces are conceived to complement each other while operating independently allowing for a more robust client roster and turnover.
The thoughtful and contrasting transition from the exterior to the interior is intended to captivate dinner's attention and establish a clear boundary as they enter a curated space of sensory exhalation.


Chapinero has a long history and tradition in Bogota; its current allotment of architectural expressions is telling of the many ways in which the neighborhood has developed. It is a densely built and populated district located at the foothill of the Cerros Orientales mountains that bound the city to the east. Residential buildings, small convenience stores, coffee shops and a growing number of restaurants make up the fabric of this trendy and rapidly evolving neighborhood. Chapinero is strategically located near the historic center to the south and financial district to the north, making it an appealing place to live and a constant source of new and denser developments.
LEO is carved out of a site with two preexisting warehouses, on a sloping street with scarce sidewalks. Due to heavy traffic, businesses in the area tend to close off their facades, internalizing their programs, leaving the streets desolate. LEO was designed to shine light and liven the street; it sets a precedent for future interventions of how simple architectural expressions can enhance and elevate surrounding spaces. The ground floor façade and access doors are finished in an artisanal brick echoing one of Bogota’s most traditional and historic building materials. Its warm tones and texture are highlighted by indirect lighting dropping from a curtain-wall façade that covers the length of the entire second floor. 2,187 individually placed textured glass panels pixelate natural and artificial light creating ever changing plays of vibrant colors and shadows that both pedestrians and dinners can appreciate.


The project is a rich conceptual greenhouse amidst a brick-and-mortar urban amalgam 2,620 meters above sea level, hundreds of miles away from plots of extremely biodiverse land where each of the ingredients grown. Distant, vulnerable communities who paradoxically hold the better part of Colombia’s traditions and ancestral knowledge are at the heart of Leonor Espinosa’s discourse; if magnifying her voice and protagonism is a measure of the project’s success, and in doing so, magnifying the plight of remote communities, then the project has met and succeeded expectations.
It has been close to three years since LEO opened its doors to the public on July 23, 2021. The restaurant has since continued to ascend in ranking and has hosted an impressive list of international chefs who have shared their unique cuisine with local dinners. Laura, the newly established bar concept boasts an experience that is both unique and complementary to LEO, ranking #80 in a list of best bars.
The building and the interiors have not been modified and dinners have constantly highlighted the fine local craftsmanship and materials, and attention to detail present in every aspect of the architectural and interior design. In appreciating the total loss of vegetation and the impossibility of future greenery that could positively impact the surrounding community, the project symbolically places an oasis of endemic trees and plants on a rooftop garden visible to immediate neighbors, reminiscent of remote territories and abundance of biodiversity.

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