LocationLaois, Co. Laois, Ireland
Text description provided by the architects. The nature of the works undertaken to Egan’s Coffee Bar and Roof Terrace were devised to consider the relationship between differing programmatic requirements; on one-hand, a modest coffee bar offering juices to take away and food to take whilst seating, whilst one the other a roof terrace and bar grafted on top of this structure. All of these works had the additional consideration of being part of a protected structure (formerly a barber’s shop), with a preserved shopfront to Main Street.
The strategy employed for the installation of these new elements was to create a floating monolithic roof structure in cast concrete with a series of vertical and horizontal cast concrete walls set at various levels below it. The concrete elements served as both structure and surface, whilst also becoming part of the “furniture” of the place itself in the table of the coffee bar, the working surface of the coffee bar and the external seating and bar counter of the roof terrace.
The immediate impression of the rear of the building is of a series of intersecting and overlapping planes in section. The roof structure is designed to float or levitate above the external roof terrace, as it support is reduced to a structural minimum. The roof surface is opened to the sky with two large slits, allowing sunlight and moonlight to affect the terrace equally (the terrace is also used as part of the Client’s adjoining nightclub). The cast concrete wall leading from the ground floor coffee bar to the roof terrace is secretly jointed to recess a handrail, whilst also acting as a support to the roof structure; the two components are never seen to make contact, as they are separated by a series of fine columns running the length of the support wall.
The interior of the roof terrace area comprises a cocktail bar for the Clients adjoining nightclub. The roof structure mediates between inside/outside through a layer of glass doors. The profile of the roof structure is such, that it is seen to twist and fold as it considers the threshold’s of use below it. Elsewhere in the bar, the ceiling is “cut” into a series of folding ribbons of light where they display as a series of shards at particular viewpoints in the bar. The bar surface, external seat, floor and external stair are all comprised of cast and poured concrete.
The area below the roof terrace and bar accommodates a coffee bar, which also provides a significant food and beverage offering of smoothies, juices, bagels, wraps etc. The language of the external terrace translates into the interior of the coffee bar, with a focus on casting most elements of furniture. The exception to this is the handmade oak stools and bench as well as a blackboard for the menu, a black glass light frame and a series of mirrored surfaces. The mirror strips to the walls condition the space of the coffee bar in so far as the “echo” the previous use of the barber’s shop as well as extending the actual space of the bar horizontally in each direction. Externally, the preserved shop-front has been altered slightly to accommodate a new stainless steel sign. The detail of this subtly displays the name of the proprietor along its face, whilst an additional surface extend perpendicular from this face to provide a night light by cutting into the stainless steel surface with the text, café.
Other than the shop-front and the view into the coffee bar, there is little evidence of significant changes to the structure from the Main Street. This was a stipulation by the Planning Authority due to the Protected nature of the building. It also meant that the roof structure had to be finely coordinated in order not to breach the ridge level of the existing building. What might be seen as the stealth-like roof structure is in actual fact, hidden by the “stealth” by the existing building framework, as it cloaks it from the everyday view of the passer-by.