the area’s cultural history is reflected on the café
in a traditional neighborhood, coffee place ‘%arabica, wide & narrow alley in chengdu’, china, provides more than just a drink. B.L.U.E. architecture studio offers people the opportunity to gather, communicate and to fully experience the local urban culture reflected through the internal courtyard‘s water pool. the renovated project is located right on kuanzhai alley, considered to be the area’s historical and cultural landmark. % arabica sees the world through coffee, luring people in to enjoy their beverage around the traditional architecture.
‘with a city full of historical and cultural heritage, we tried to integrate and extend the city’s unique characteristics into the space from a perspective of respecting the spirit of the site. the atmosphere of kuanzhai alley and the relaxed pace of life in chengdu both have an impact on our design,’ explains B.L.U.E. architecture studio.
the coffee place is located at kuanzhai alley, considered to be the area’s historical and cultural landmark
all images courtesy of B.L.U.E. architecture studio
photographs by ziazhi
amidst the urban noise, a relatively peaceful and tranquil atmosphere embraces ‘%arabica, wide & narrow alley in chengdu’. the studio aimed to maintain the authentic lifestyle of the area as well as the traditional western-sichuan residential architecture of the existing one-entry courtyard house, originally built during the qing dynasty’s kangxi period.
‘we hope the café to become a public space like a small neighborhood where people can either stroll or stay for a while and where people feel comfortable to walk and communicate. by extending the vibrant living and cultural atmosphere of the alley into the café, we renovated the site to make it a dynamic public space that provides a rich and solid spatial experience,’ continues the studio.
the architects aimed to maintain the authentic lifestyle of the area
the internal courtyard fills up with water
in grey bricks and black roof tiles, the café reflects the memories of what was. by keeping the three-sided layout of the old residence. the key element being the courtyard turns into a pool and visitors get to enjoy the calming presence of the water. with a floor-to-ceiling-glass surface, natural lighting bathes the tranquil atmosphere indoors as well. as the overall transparency of the space translates into fluidity, chairs and tables surround the space. the narrowing and widening of the building’s sides, and the paving of the floor in old grey bricks are both characteristics that echo the kyanzhai alley. for seclusion, a private seating area made out of handcrafted bricks sits by the end of the road, as the irregular surfaces suggest a simple and natural texture.
inside %arabica, wide & narrow alley in chengdu
the modern interior receives light from the glassed courtyard
the modern pure white bar counter inside is introduced across the entrance and pool. with the philosophy of a roadside shop, the bar area helps increase the street-like experience and feeling. in this space, the overall spatial experience takes a dynamic turn as people start to move, talk, rest and enjoy their time. moreover, this vibrant scene reminds of the old chengdu life. besides, the core concept of the project was to deal with the relationship between human and nature, culture and daily life.
‘while showing the original structure and traditional elements of the architecture, we tried to integrate the essence of modern urban life and the minimalism aesthetics of the brand. […] the process of the renovation is a continuous dialogue with the site and history. it is also our exploration of the publicness of urban space and the playfulness of urban life,’ adds B.L.U.E. architecture studio.