Fine Café is located in a traditional Hutong area near Gong Wang Fu, a prince’s mansion of the Qing Dynasty. In this renovation project, the architects intend to highlight the contrast between history and modern life, and between traditional Beijing architecture and European style.

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Firm : Atelier A
Location: Liuying street, Beijing, China
Category: Restaurant
Project Architect: Yanwen (Lily) Zhu
Design Team : Binming Tian
Area: 77.2  m2
Project Year: 2018
Photographs: Binming Tian

Fine Cafe By Atelier A - Sheet2Like many old residences in Beijing, the building is dug on ground level, descending about one metre. To take advantage of this extra space, a loft is built to divide the café into a lower space dominated by traditional Chinese style and an upper one by European elements.

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Fine Cafe By Atelier A - Sheet3The first floor is furnished with low wood tables and stools specially designed to recreate the traditional Hutong lifestyle. The tables are all manually polished so as to preserve the texture of the wood. Against the traditional furniture is the customer-made terrazzo, the dark green marble aggregates in which echoes the same colour extensively used in the café.

Fine Cafe By Atelier A - Sheet4On their way to the second floor, customers will pass by a historical archway of grey bricks.

This was not in the original design. When realizing that the load-bearing arch could not be demolished, the architects decided to preserve it so that the café blends with the environment, for the grey bricks are widely used in the surrounding Hutong area. Embedded in a shop serving coffee and pancakes, the arch gives quite a surprising effect.

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The atmosphere upstairs is entirely different. With the Art Deco rebar and the antique European furniture, one might feel like sitting in a terrace in Paris.

Fine Cafe By Atelier A - Sheet5Wood steps are installed as both sitting places and stairs leading to the French windows.

In summer and autumn, the windows can be opened so that the interior of the café extends to the exterior. The split-level design, reinforced by multiple decorative mirrors, creates a complex, yet open and communicative space.

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Zhu Yanwen

Graduated from École nationale supérieure des arts appliqués et des métiers d’art in Paris, Zhu Yanwen, the founder of Atelier A has over ten years’ experience in interior design and furniture design. Her works range from residences, hotels, to offices, restaurants, and retails, etc. and have won her many awards and nominations including the 2018 INSIDE World Festival of Interiors Award (Education category) for B Campus school, music hall and library in Zhangjiang, Shanghai (won), the 2016 World Interior News Awards for Guanghua Road SOHO in Beijing (nominated), the 2017 AD 100 Awards for KleeKlee retail store in Shanghai (nominated), the 2017 World Interior News Awards for KleeKlee (nominated) and the 2018 Dezeen Awards for KleeKlee (nominated).

Yanwen has unique philosophies in the use of materials, details, and savoir-faire in construction. She prioritizes functionality and user experience in designing instead of decoration for decoration’s sake. Her works usually preserve the original textures of materials, and highlight interaction between space and people so as to ensure the lasting life of finished works.

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Rethinking The Future Awards 2022