Delve into a transformative journey from a porcelain house in the heart of the West Bund, Shanghai, to LOAM cafe&bar. Designers STUDIO8 have cultivated a blend of openness and privacy while paying homage to the original structure and its surroundings.
6 July, 2023
Meandering through the hustle and bustle of one of Asia’s most vibrant art clusters, your eyes might be drawn to an oasis of tranquillity that challenges the urban fabric: LOAM cafe&bar. Designed by STUDIO8, this once-enclosed art exhibition space now manifests as a coffee shop and bar, offering an interactive refuge for city dwellers searching for a new experience.
The design brief was an open canvas with one crucial challenge to address: how does one transform an art exhibition space into a welcoming coffee house and bar without compromising the original facade’s integrity? STUDIO8 approached the question with a holistic lens, seeking to redesign the interior, exterior, and landscape cohesively.
At the heart of the design process, a green maple tree served as a guiding inspiration. As its leaves sway gently in the wind, one feels an invitation to embark on a unique journey around this solitary tree. STUDIO8’s vision was to capture the essence of a leisurely picnic under this tree, fostering a communal gathering space that invites visitors to linger and savour the sights, sounds, and smells of nature.
The journey begins at a grand pivot door subtly mirroring the ceramic facade. As you progress into the semi-outdoor area, the view opens up to the green maple in the courtyard, inviting you to sit, relax, and perhaps even forget that you’re amidst Shanghai’s thriving West Bund.
The interior continues this narrative, transforming the atmosphere from casual seating by the glass sliding doors to the deeper-set sofas, encapsulating an array of experiences that mirror the porcelain tiles’ dispersion on the facade. This careful orchestration of light and shadow, openness and privacy, and indoor and outdoor spaces culminates in a journey to the central tree, drawing you into a haven within the wider concrete setting.
The commitment to the original design resonates profoundly in the facade. The team at STUDIO8 chose not to add elements but rather to redistribute the existing porcelain blocks. Starting from the entrance, they gradually reduced the density of the ceramic tile layout, creating a gradient effect that respects the original design and adds a dance of shadows in the changing sunlight.
One cannot overlook the use of materials throughout LOAM cafe&bar. From the glazed concrete of the custom-made bar counter reflecting the natural “porcelain” texture to the recycled foam ceramic tables, every element is in concert with the overarching design language.
The attention to detail even extends to the door handle, mirroring the shape of the melted porcelain blocks and further tying the interior with the exterior. This sensitivity to connection is evident throughout the design, with a unique rail system connecting custom steel side tables, and a glass sliding door blurring the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces.
In a metropolis as vibrant as Shanghai, the transformation of LOAM cafe&bar looks to balance urbanity and nature, openness and privacy. By weaving the charm of the original structure with the comfort of the contemporary design, STUDIO8 has crafted an urban retreat that remains firmly rooted in its cultural context, a beacon of tranquillity in the city’s heart.
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