Smack in the middle of the shopping district in Chengdu, China, a lovely two story coffee shop called Daodao Coffee was recently complete by HAD Architects& EPOS with the intention of giving weary shoppers, groups of friends, and quiet individuals a place to gather and find that they’re looking for in one convenient place, without interrupting one another.
The coffee shop is an interesting place to look at the moment you walk through the door. This is primarily because it is at once decorative and also minimalist. This might sound oxymoronic but let us explain; the visual interest of the shop lies in the fact that the very structures or furnishings and the way space is divided is so visually pleasing already that hardly any decor need be added (besides some lovely greenery, of course).
The coffee shop gets quite a lot of traffic thanks to its location in the centre of Intime City Commercial District, but the layout and generally respected atmosphere of nearly spa-like calm, which is supported by the materiality of the place, ensures that one’s ability to do something quiet like read remains in tact no matter how many people come in to order coffee.
Covering a modest 65 square metres, the coffee shop stands two storeys high, which is part of what lends certain spaces to an extra quiet atmosphere. Knowing that different people visit coffee shops for different reasons, designs intentional created some spaces that are more conducive to groups that want to talk, and some, slightly removed, that have a singular comfortable but isolated seat for, say, someone who would like to enjoy a coffee and study outside of their desk at home without interruption.
Another interesting element of the shop is that, despite its aura of a spa that is flooded in natural daylight, all of the lighting on the top floor of DaoDao Coffee, and most on the bottom floor except near the windows, is actually artificial. The intention was to used clean white LED lights and light wood that reflects well but not too harshly in order to create a gentle glow that resembles daylight as closely as possible.
Even though the designers were aiming to establish different spaces for different people and purposes, they hesitated to actually divide space; they didn’t want to create a cubicle-like scenario that might make anyone feel isolated. That’s why you see structures change and seat or table make ups vary from place to place. The division is mental and visual, based more on atmosphere and common sense functionality than in being told which area is separated by which purpose.
The light wood materiality that encompasses most of the shop was a choice made for more than just its ability to reflect light in ideal amounts. The goal was to create a calming space and provide some contrast to the dark metal frames and support details, as well as the artistic looked punched metal panels that do give the space a touch more physical privacy than others.
In contrast to all the seating space present on the top floor, the first floor is slightly more open concept and easier for fast movement. This is where people on the go come in simply to grab refreshment and leave, or where tired shoppers sit on the stools by the window for a brief moment until their friends arrive to meet them and they move elsewhere within the shop or perhaps move on all together.
This side bar provides customers and shoppers a stunning view of the square just outside the shop’s windows. In fact, the draw of having such a vantage point while one rests with a drink for a few brief moments is often what draws otherwise fast paced individuals through the doors to pause and breathe before continuing about their day. Plus, the coffee is great!
For those who venture upstairs and stay much longer, there is a self service desk where customers can fetch and serve lemonade and different coffee and drink ingredients free of charge, simply to encourage them to stay as long as they please. The owners regard this as beneficial even if a person only buys one drink because the space is designed to be enjoyed and shared and perhaps they will feel encouraged to come back another time.
For those who truly are seeking a place outside home that is much more cozy and private, but without being totally devoid of other people, there is a singular seat in a quiet corner. This is understood to be for someone who wishes to concentrate even though they wanted to enjoy the world and some public space while they’re at it.
Photos by ARCH-EXIST