The design collective Penda came up with the modular furnishing system in response to a brief from Beijing property developer Hongkun for a design concept that could be applied to branches of its Home Cafe throughout China. Based on the idea of creating "spaces to breathe in heavily polluted areas of China", Penda combined air-purifying plants and herbs that create fragrances to complement the smell of brewing coffee.
The wooden planters are supported by a structure made from ribbed steel bars, characteristically used in the laying of reinforced concrete. Thought, the steel bars are brought to light as a main design feature in Hongkun Cafés.
A modular grid system and its various fillings propose flexible reconfiguration for the café. The designers repurposed the pre-used steel bars by joining them together into cubic frames, creating modules that can be reconfigured to divide the space in different ways. This gives the owner freedom of reorganizing the grid or even reusing its parts for a different location. The structural grid offers a space, where many cubic elements can be applied. The black-painted structure contains cubic lights and boxes filled with books that can be spread in various densities, depending on the amount of privacy required.
However, the resulting structure divides the cafe's open seating area from cosy sofa spaces, and incorporates the serving counter and tray collection points.
Low-maintenance plants – including spider plants, sword fern and Marble Queen – fill some of the boxes, while vine plants and ivy are slowly heartened to cover the metal frame and become a main design feature of the cafes and entices customers to return to a continually alternating space.
Further elements that can be integrated into the units comprise steel versions of the planters, flat shelves and bulbs that stand upright or hang from horizontal surfaces.
Raw plaster walls around the periphery of the space are painted black and completed by tactile leather sofas and the wooden surfaces of the boxes and other freestanding furniture.
The only colour is provided by the plants and scattered red versions of Jean Prouve's classic Standard chairs.
"The cafe will welcome people to come in not only for quality coffee, but also to enjoy a green oasis in the midst of a polluted city," – Penda
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