Cafés, restaurants, libraries and the likes have become indubitable extensions of our own homes. In this particular occasion, Urbensis was commissioned to explore the possibilities of extending the public realm into a standard café organized into two floors and a terrace.
By removing the entrance façade, the first floor was opened up, thus becoming an extension of the outside space. Inside, visitors can find two areas: the fast (come-and-go area) and the relaxed (sitting down area). The first one features high tables and chairs next to the service desk –a longitudinal lighting box wrapped in white glass–. The second area portrays low tables, chairs and a bench zone. These two areas are divided by steel made longitudinal furniture that incorporates an orchestrated disposition of mirrors and projectors to create a visual illusion.
A spiral staircase connects the first and second floors. Besides its functional importance as the main vertical circulation, it also provides strong character to the venue and allows dialogue between the two levels. The strings distributed around the periphery act as structural support as well as a balustrade for safety. Visually, the strings show the juxtaposition of raw beauty created by a strong black steel material and the lyrical rhythm generated by its repetition and alternation.
The second floor features a circular shape. Within its 360° transparent wall, the outside urban landscape and the interior merge into one.
Hence “wholeness” has become one of the major design principles of the project.
The second floor could be described as a single unit assembled in a circular shape. When disassembled, we realize that the unit is elaborated of functional components such as a circular-bench, a bar table facing outside, a service table, ceiling-lights and a platform. Those components not only spread from the center of the floor plan to emphasize a centric space, but also layer in three dimensions to lead the circulation and organize the complexity of activities.
The second floor is also naturally extended into the outdoor terrace. The 150m² area is organized into a first space with a bar zone that serves both, inside and outside spaces, and a second courtyard-like space built with a surrounded continuous bench. The inside and outside floors are made of wood, material that extends up to all the sitting benches and back rest areas. During the summer, a round white structure is installed to work as sun protection.
“Flexibility” is another key concept featured in the space between floors. The whole interior assemblage is not aimed to provide a fixed model for particular activities. Instead, following the creative concept of Cup/One itself, it offers a variety of possibilities. For example, unlike the normal use of one-table-and-two-chairs for coffee drinkers, short tables are displayed along the circular bench as movable elements, so that customers may sit still, lean on, lie down or even move the tables at will. When needed, the movable elements can also be stored away to create space for special events such as lectures, exhibitions, and shows.
The principle for material selection is simplicity, less is not always more, but always creates elegance.
Timber has been applied to the floor, platform and tables to state the concept of wholeness. Black steel is wrapped around the service tables to finish the story that started downstairs, portraying vertical continuity. The white ceiling emits light that echoes within white columns and curtain-like wall structures as well, in strong contrast with the black steel material.
To respect the concept of wholeness does not mean the denial of detail; on the contrary, detailed design plays an essential role in it. Take the heating system on the second floor for example; all the heating radiators are hidden underneath the timber platform and the air outlets embedded within the sides of the circular bench at an ankle level to let the warm air go up. Additionally, the carefully designed split-like outlets contribute to the artistic look of the whole. In this way, the service facilities integrate once again with the physical form of the venue, adding up to the concept of wholeness. Besides, the joints of the concrete areas and the timber floor, the contrast between soft (fabric) and rigid (concrete, timber and steel) all provide pleasant details to the visitors.
As a result, the café transcends the basic function of serving coffee and beverage in a public room, provoking different emotions in customers through the design of a dynamic atmosphere.