% Arabica West Jianguo Road, Shanghai

B.L.U.E. Architecture Studio transformed a small space to have a big impact on the visitors to % Arabica West Jianguo Road in Shanghai.

  • area / size 538 sqft
  • Year 2019
  • Location Shanghai, China,
  • “Architecture builds urban system while inhabitant builds cities.” Serving as the skeleton of a city, streets are the carrier of urban living; they are also the foundation of creating a habitable living environment. Today, in high-density modern cities and fast-paced modern life, streets need to grow back to their human scale to offer a comfortable, enriching, and inclusive experience. For example, Shimokitazawa in Tokyo has been rated as one of the favorite neighborhoods in lots of surveys in Tokyo, Japan.

    The uniqueness of the neighborhood is that plenty of stores usually place their furniture such as tables and chairs, display cases and shelves, etc. at the spaces between their storefronts and the streets. People can see and interact with a wide range of products almost everywhere in the neighborhood. The scenes of people dining and drinking coffee as well as open-air parties and events make the charming urban life hardly fade away. The characteristic has transformed Shimokitazawa from a conventional linear commercial street to a vivid neighborhood with a rich and solid spatial experience.

    The design content of the 50-sqm shop includes both façade and interior renovation. For the façade, rather than practicing with a conventional method, our design chooses to leave the space completely open by creating a small courtyard around a U-shaped glass box. The beautifully curved glass door that can be fully opened and the floor texture extending from the exterior work together to merge the indoor and outdoor space into a whole to the greatest extent, and to leave the inner and outer space blurred. Although the interior space is small, it establishes a courtyard so that the trees in the shop and Chinese parasol trees along the street manage to respond to each other, which can be read as an extension of natural elements of the streets. In addition, in order to ensure the shop’s practicability in different seasons, and air conditioning system is installed in the outdoor lounge area. Combined with an air curtain machine at the entrance, the system controls the indoor and outdoor air exchange to a certain extent, so that guests can get a relatively more pleasant experience in both winter and summer.

    The overall transparent, open, and welcoming design helps the coffee shop blend into the urban context and the streetscape. Meanwhile, the design introduces street and urban scenery into the store: The parasol trees, marvelous changes of light and shadows, the crowd passing by – all become a significant part of the whole store. Through the vibrant dialogue with nature and urban streets, we redefine the boundaries between interior and exterior.

    Although the project is a 50-sqm small-scale renovation, we consider it as an attempt to explore the ideal and habitable urban interface in a deeper sense. Our design strategy focuses on contributing a part of the store’s commercial space to the urban streets by transforming part of the interior into the exterior. This attitude at least gives a small boost to modern urban spatial experience in a subtle way. We hope that there will be more and more projects like this in the city. They each act as an individual point, gradually spreading into a network to integrally improve the quality of urban living.

    Design: B.L.U.E. Architecture Studio
    Design Team: Shuhei Aoyama, Yoko Fujii, Lingzi Liu, Yixin Yang
    Photography: Eiichi Kano