Excerpt: Basic Coffee is an architectural project designed by Office AIO in China. Basic Coffee is a vital tenant of a co-working hub that activates a newly gentrified commercial zone in Beijing. Resonating with the brand’s belief in “good coffee is the norm”, the architect challenges to spin the impression of a generic café.
[Text as submitted by architect] Despite occupying a 30sqm corner of a restored historic building, Basic Coffee is a vital tenant of a co-working hub that activates a newly gentrified commercial zone in Beijing. Resonating with the brand’s belief in “good coffee is the norm”, the architect challenges to spin the impression of a generic cafe — from the conventional “making of” to “the enjoyment of” coffee.
A spatial arrangement inverts the relationship from one that features the fanciest of tools and showmanship of baristas to capturing something that is much less tangible – one’s senses.
The design focuses on establishing a series of “framed views” into the café by orchestrating a play of light and obscurity. A sense of mystery and curiosity is made possible by a concentric spatial organisation that originates from a concealed coffee- making area. It is wrapped by a ‘veiled’ entry gallery and a curved seating area on the outermost layer.
The journey begins with entering into a thin slice of volume enveloped by a suspended aluminium perforated screen above the bar bench, revealing a partial view of the seating area. Coffee order takes place at the junction between the entry gallery and the large window facing the street, where the barista is strategically positioned to serve both dine- in and takeaway customers, sculpted as an exaggerated one-point perspective scene. A fissure is created adjacent to an illuminating wall, dramatising the display of pour-over coffee preparation.
To craft the passage, the architect designs with a subdued version of the brand colour, the minimal but profound design language, and a playful and unexpected spatial journey. These elements yield an experience that allows the patrons to taste the space by observing a series of orchestrated movements and experiencing coffee drinking by focusing their senses on sounds, olfaction, and flavours.
Like a live display, these “framed views” expose different motions “performed” by all parties in the cafe. The suggestiveness in partially concealed acts of indulging in coffee, muffled chatters, and sound and smells of coffee-making arouse one’s curiosity and appetite. As a result, these subtly evocative stimulus underscore Basic Coffee’s value, coffee made to savour as it is and enjoyed intimately in a delicate 30sqm of space.