Allongé café ，法语词，是芭蕾舞里面一个经典动作，是一个最美的瞬间。动作很慢，看似简单，实际需要倾注很多的力量和感觉才能完成，造就美的一刻。
Allongé, a french term that describes a breathing moment of the arm in ballet, evokes elegance and beauty. Simple and slow as it looks, this moment can’t be articulated well without strength and a spur of inspiration.
This is exactly the philosophy of Allongé’s coffee –– let the beauty of coffee strike you in the moment. It is grounded in careful souring and brewing. Allongé Café’s menu reflects its goal for quality, not for attention. You can only find classic coffee brewings that carry the flavor of time.
The café is located in a very Shanghainese street. Before renovation, the space was a store selling rice, flour and oil –– a distinctive specialty store that existed probably only in the old China. Chinese parasol trees lined the street and blocked the windows in the building standing by the street. White and red window frames hardly show through the thick leaves. Long drying racks are sticking out from the balconies, with clothes flying with the breeze. The next door of the space is a tailor’s shop.
The sign for the old specialty store was taken down and the green paint used for the front facade outlines the store front. Black and orange power cables stretched under the balcony. The first thought came to my mind was that how to preserve these prints of history to the greatest extend and make the new cafe become an organic part of the old.
Café has always been the meet place for artists and writers. It’s the birthplace of ideas and wisdom. What should Allongé Cafe become? The place should provide an atmosphere to inspire ideas and encourage friends to share the details their lives –– over a cup of coffee. Therefore, the furniture should take a classy style and tell a design story on their own. This can make the space look open for ideas and interpretations. All these are some vague initial ideas. As the project progressed, we started to have a cleared plan.
First is the layout plan. Here it means a layout that shows the space function and relationships. Planning functions in the limited space is fundamental to space design. Function can be broken down into two parts –– making coffee and enjoying coffee, and we proposed three ideas: 1) a conventional layout with defined border. It is not so much creative design-wise, but it makes cleaning easy. 2) a conventional layout with defined border mixed with theater style dining area. 3) completely open space with no defined border. This is an avant-garde layout where the space can be fully used. But the open style requires frequent cleaning and organizing. We played with these layouts to get a better understanding of the dimensions of the space.
Designing space is a complex process. There’s no absolute pros or cons for a layout, and it’s all based on the store operation and branding concept. The client and we are leaning towards the third idea of the open space.
After deciding on the layout, we started to play with elements. We broke the whole thing down to experiment with elements, and then put elements together to view them as a whole. The whole space after breaking down and re-arranging contains planned elements and unplanned elements.
The L-shape counter can be used for serving coffee and dessert display. In this way, the function of the counter can be maximized. However, the cafe has many equipment that need to be accommodated. Therefore, we started with measuring all equipment dimensions for both placing outside and insertion, and then arrange them in the counter area. Based on the coffee making process, the kitchen needs to be divided into wet area and dry area. After discussion, we decided to the best place for the sink is at the corner of the L-shape counter, where the barista can easily access it no matter whether they are making espresso or pour-over. Trash can and coffee grounds can are hidden under the counter. They are not visible from outside except the two holes on the surface of the counter.
The middle island can serve for multiple purposes, including storage, reception, cashier, and packing. To maximize the number of the seats that can be placed in the cafe, the little kitchen in the back from the old store is repurposed as a private booth. We tested different ideas of arranging the seats for various scenarios and make it possible for the booth to reach the capacity of accommodating six people. In addition, the glasses for the bay window can fold when they are open, converting the seats by the window into outdoor seats.
We created two solutions to the problem of lacking storage room. 1) creating storage space by category. We designed drawers for tools of all sizes and storage in the hallway for cleaning supplies. The two fridges store different stocks. Instead of putting the coffee making tools away in a drawer, they are stored in the metal cabin or birch shelves on the wall as display. The aluminum coffee table is German water-proof outdoor storage that can be used as extra storage space.
Small space is always more cozy and intimate. We expect everyone who enters the private booth through the arched doorway would get surprised and say “wow, it’s so cute!” In fact making things smaller is an aesthetic technique. The orange color of the wall was unplanned, just because the original choice of a yellow fridge was sold out and we have to go with the orange fridge. The color of the booth therefore naturally becomes orange to match the fridge color. We love the color of orange, so we decided to paint the ceiling and sides of the doorway in orange. There is going to be an orange ceiling light and an orange top Stool 60 to jazz the space up. This departure from tradition and conservativeness should attract certain people.
The facade of the coffee shop is Embedded design。The original plan was to transport and install the whole facade, but the actual transportation forced us to dissemble it into three parts –– the arched sign that also acts as a rain shelter, bay window and frames, front door and the folding window. mosaic texture can preserve the history of the old building and create a harmonic relationship.
We hope the space can convey the beauty of coffee making through little details –– the shape of a drop, the hole in a coffee dripper, the shape of a sharing glass and the color of grounded coffee. And these details are transformed into tangible design throughout the space. The reverse triangle in the “Allonge” logo is the accent in French and also a drop of water when brewing coffee. The big peak hole on the front door represents the dripper –– every guest who goes through the “dripper” are like coffee beans going through grinder, beginning to release aroma and possess unique flavors. The arches in the ceiling and for the shop sign are negative space of a sharing glass, and a very clear one. One regret here is that the arched doorway should have been round. Considering the height could bump people’s heads, the arch is eventually shaped rectangular with round corners. The tiles and tile skirting for the kitchen wall are in coffee color. Although skirting is optional, it can add durability to the space. Architect Alvaro Siza keeps skirting in many of his designs because design should be as practical as beautiful.
There are more details. the flooring design is trying to imitate the sunshine coming through the window, adding warmness to the space that lacks lighting. Copper flooring was used to prevent wear and tear in the flooring material. The copper handle on the front door looks familiar, doesn’t it? The size and details are adjusted to its functionality. We used various types of light switches to control lighting so that one can spot the right one immediately after you get familiar with the switches. The brass support brackets are customized for the narrow birch wood shelf –– where magazines and coffee cups makers can find a perfect home.
经典设计家具的选择是个人喜好选择，更是理念认同的选择。Artek贯穿了芬兰自然元素的家具，对于那个时代是艺术和技术的最好的结合。选用了橙色和胡桃木色的Stool 60，是阿尔瓦•阿图(Alvar Aalto)最经典的作品。另外还选用了原木色的Domus Chair ，它是芬兰第二设计大师依马里•塔皮奥瓦拉(Ilmari Tapiovaara)的作品。中岛的吊灯选择的是A331“Beehive“是阿尔瓦•阿图最广泛被认可的灯具设计，点亮后会产生温暖、弥漫的光线，最初是为芬兰的耶夫斯基莱大学于设计的。过道层板上的壁灯和开门扶手上方的壁灯是vipp 的产品，同样是一款光线柔和的灯具，这样的选择更偏向个人喜好一些。另外还选择两个经典的设计师vintage家具，橙色小屋里有抽屉和桌子的长椅是夏洛特•贝里安（Charlotte Perriand）的作品和门口摆放的是南娜·迪策尔（Nanna Ditzel）设计的扇形单椅（trinidad chair），还有中岛前面很应景的咖啡豆吧椅Pirkka Bar Stool。
Choosing classic furniture is not just an aesthetic preference, but also a reflection of life philosophy. Artek is an exemplary Finish style furniture brand that speaks to the best craftsmanship and artistic creation. We picked one of the most classic design by Alvar Aalto –– pecan and orange Stool60, and wood DomusChair –– a masterpiece by Ilmari Tapiovaara. Above the middle island hangs the well accepted A331 “Beehive” light by Alvar Aalto. The lighting was originally designed as a decor for the University of Jyvaskyla. When turned on, the diffused light will create a warm atmosphere. The wall lamps used for the doorway and hallway come from Vipp, which also will create gentle light –– this is more of a personal preference of the client. Last but not least, the bench and the attached drawer in the private booth come from Charlotte Perriand. The trinidad chair by the front door is a design of Nanna Ditzel, and the Pirkka Bar stool by the middle island has a coffee bean inspired top.
When the sun shines through the window and sheds light on chairs by the door during winter time in Shanghai, it casts well spaced shadows on the grey wall. As the sun is setting, the shapes on the wall are stretched long and fading into oblivion. It is like drinking coffee at Allonge Cafe –– you will get the brightest flavor at the first sip and the feeling will endure to the last drop.
The whole project is filled with moments –– the planned and unexpected, conflicting ideas and consensus. We have seen progress and envisioned potential improvement. However, they are not all the moments that can happen in this space. The space is an existence. It wouldn’t complete without the time that’s passing by in here, the feeling connected to the design and whatever happens in this space.