Text description provided by the architects. Born in a Hutong alley, BigSmall Coffee had developed a strong affinity to the historic fabric of Beijing. The brand has always pride itself of its Beijing-ness in the DNA. After losing its previous Hutong location, BigSmall was still determined to stay in the historic core. BigSmall found its new home in Beiluoguxiang, a mostly residential neighborhood composed of traditional courtyard housing, school, government compound, and multi-level residential housing. Located on the ground floor of a seven-story residential building, BigSmall Coffee aims to deepen its root in the community by becoming its living room and common social space.
As the second time collaboration between designRESERVE and BigSmall, the design team dug deeper into BigSmall’s brand culture of being open, fun, and community centered. An idea of community “recreation center” was created for the 180 sqm of indoor and outdoor space accommodating four interrelated functions: a coffee shop during daytime, a bar at night, a mini gallery free for young artists, and a garden accessible to general public.
The mixed-use day to night programming transforms a coffee shop into a cultural domain, where both instant gatherings and planned events could be held and enjoyed by different groups of citizens. 120 sqm of outdoor garden, born from a parking lot, works as an extension of the interior to reinforce the idea of a community “recreation center”. Shared by apartment tenants, hutong neighbors and visitors, the project becomes an interactive social hub.
The interior of the community “recreation center” consists three parts, living room, bar area, and gallery. Custom designed furniture made of steel tube and tubular upholstery encircles the living room to create an intimate atmosphere. The bar area integrates familiar elements often seen on the streets of Beijing, but re-invented: bulletin boards posting menus and event announcements highlight the back wall; a rotating merchandize shelf inspired by mobile magazine kiosk; a window selling coffee and draft beer serving the garden. A semi-circular shaped wall bridges between living room and gallery inside which restroom is hidden. A monogram-like graphic is painted on the outside gallery wall facing the garden, identifying the unique program of the room as a refuge for independent creativities.
The adjacent outdoor area was once a dilapidated parking lot for the apartment building. designRESERVE takes the opportunity to turn the lot into a lively community garden. With reference to a skating park, the garden is constructed with ramps, seating, railing, and planters of fluid shapes.
A set of custom stationary bikes with coffee holders and a ping-pong table are installed in the middle of the garden surrounded by trees and hedges. These facilities have become a favorite to many local residents and visitors for daily exercise and entertainment, just like in many other parks in Beijing.
The project also explores fresh takes on traditional materials. For example, the interior wall is partially covered with waxed brown paper, often used for food-wrapping. It is silk-screened with brand pattern designed by Meat Studio. Another re-invented use is amber-colored glazed tiles. Traditionally this hand-made material was only allowed for the roofs of royal palaces and temples in Beijing. But in contemporary Beijing in BigSmall, it is seen on the walls of bar counter and façade. The tiles are arranged in a vertical pattern forming a corrugated surface that reflect and diffuse a warm golden tone into the atmosphere, a welcoming and energetic setting for everyday life in an ever changing city.