Building A Mini Cafe – Narrower Than A Car Park

The Chinese architectural firm Onexn Architects was able to fit the Joys café into a space on a street in Shenzhen that was less than 2.6 metres wide and had previously been occupied by an air conditioner repair business.

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Behind an entrance that is encased by built-in shelving and seats, there is a counter at Joys that offers beverages and baked goods. The counter is narrower than one of the parking spots outside. The width of the Joys Cafe is about 2.6 metres.

There is seating available all the way out into the street. Internally, a retractable staircase provides access to the private office area that is located on the mezzanine level above the counter.

The nine-square-meter café was designed by Onexn Architects with the intention of fostering social interaction among neighbourhood inhabitants, despite the space’s limited dimensions.

The cosy restaurant was once a place that repaired air conditioners.

The area of Shenzhen that is home to Joys was developed in the 1990s and goes by the name Xiangmi Third Village. In recent years, the neighbourhood has seen a significant decline in the number of community amenities available, and many of the open areas have been developed into high-rise buildings.

The architectural firm provided an explanation, saying, “One of the aims that we conveyed with our customer was to reinstate a public node on the assumption that addressing functional demands would be beneficial.”

“The very first time we inspected the site, we discovered many air-conditioning parts and oil stains were scattered in front of the entrance,” said Onexn Architects. “As a result, people had to take a detour in order to pick up clothes from the laundry or take medicines from the pharmacy that is next to the repair shop.”

Because the location gave off the sense of being mixed, neglected, or blurry, there was a restricted amount of space where inhabitants could remain.

At night, the eaves of the expansive porch are illuminated.

Onexn Architects dismantled the original lightbox and built a front with a high porch that protects the large glass doors that both swing open in order to create an entry that is more inviting.

In spite of the fact that it is less than 2.6 metres wide, the café has a porch that is over five metres tall, making it almost exactly twice as tall as it is broad.

At night, there are also spotlights in the porch that are positioned underneath the cafe sign. These spotlights light up to draw attention. During the day, light enters via a small window located above the entrance, while the window itself is lighted up at night.

The proportions of the internal space are altered by an installation on the ceiling on the opposite side of the entrance. This installation spirals towards the room’s apex, making the space seem smaller.

According to Onexn Architects, “It mitigates the oppressive sensation in this small and elevated area as well as gives a sense of mystery and ceremony to it.”

A little crack in the wall emits light when it’s dark.

On each side of the entrance, a grid-like construction of wooden box shelves has been erected, and these shelves continue up over a portion of the ceiling. The concept behind this design is to provide a space-saving solution that can also function as a beautiful installation that enhances the overall atmosphere of the café.

Customers may sit on cushioned boxes that extend from the base of the shelves and serve as bench seating for the business. Additional storage space is hidden behind the cupboard doors below.

A curving ceiling may be seen inside of the café.

The shelves surround the restaurant counter, which is arranged such that it is facing the entrance. Worktops, coffee machines, and bread equipment may be found behind the counter, in the area designated for the personnel. When it is not being used, the ladder that leads to the mezzanine level of the office may be retractable to conserve room.

The paint used to coat both the inside and outside of Joy is a light grey that is designed to seem like cement. The pavement and curb are covered in the same dark grey floor tiles that run throughout the café and extend outside onto the sidewalk.

The bases of the white shelves are outfitted with seats in the form of benches.

The white shelf and seating system has splashes of colour in the shape of inserts that are a mustard yellow colour. Building in such a restricted space required negotiation with the businesses on each side of the gap.

“During construction, the kind neighbours would frequently provide us suggestions on design ideas,” said Onexn Architects. “During this time, we were really appreciative of their generosity.”

“We resisted initially, but gradually realised that raising opinions and keeping communication in such a symbiotic environment was significant,” added the studio. “We resisted initially, but gradually realised that raising opinions and keeping communication in such a symbiotic environment was significant.”

“The wall on the right side of the entry, which we term a spontaneous design, is an example of how well our neighbours and ourselves can work together to reach a common goal.”

Although it’s not very big, the café makes excellent use of the space it has.

Onexn Architects were careful to maintain both a modest flower bed and room for a communal sewing machine on opposite sides of the building.

Onexn Architects is an architectural firm that was established in Shenzhen in 2015 by Bo Zhang and Jingjing Wang.

This café and pocket park were erected in the area left by a building that was demolished by an earthquake. In addition, there is a streamlined coffee bar that contains zero furnishings. These are examples of restaurants that are located in tiny spaces.

Photography is by Li Jinhui.

Project credits:

Design firm: Onexn Architects Architects
Chief architects: Zhang Bo, Wang Jingjing
Design team: An Bingxiang, Shi Qiuyang, Guo Xiaohong
Construction drawings: Li Nanfang
Construction firm: Essence Atelier Engineering
Lighting design: PUDI

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