Here we take a closer look at some of our favourite projects.
Café Oriente in Seoul. Photography by Yongjoon Choi. Styling by Studio Lit.
Located in a hipster-leaning neighbourhood of Seoul,
Along with coffee, the café sells artisanal versions of traditional Korean snacks, and the client requested the design ‘imply oriental aesthetics’ to echo this. The 58 sqm, basement level site sits at the end of an alleyway, in an ex-electronics shop. The rectangular layout has a central courtyard in line with a traditional Korean ‘Hanok’ structure.
Labotory expanded on this by echoing elements of a traditional Korean house, including elaborate curved awnings, calming cream wallpaper and warm timber. The coffee counter and bench seats that frame the courtyard mimic the traditional rectangular shape, adding a sense of structure and stability.
Contemporary elements such as terrazzo flooring and concrete grind on the interior and exterior walls create a clean, minimalist aesthetic. Mimicking the awnings, a shiny white structure curves above the coffee counter, drawing attention to the barista as a focal point. Another white ceiling structure is inset over the courtyard, with indirect lighting on the perimeter making the ceiling appear deeper, and as if floating. Pebbles, small plants and rocks border the courtyard, natural elements that bring warmth to the cool, concrete-heavy interior.
Caligari Brewing in Seoul. Photography by Yongjoon Choi.
Labotory married the two, combining motifs that speak to the brand’s identity with local sensibility. The designers kept oriental formations intact and added contrasting contemporary finishes and materials. The sloped roof features exposed beams of traditional lauan timber, below which stainless steel panels and concrete walls create lively contrast. Red LED strips and neon signs create a sensuous atmosphere come nightfall, when Caligari Brewing transforms from a lunch spot to a bar.
The layout is sectioned into smaller offshoot ‘secret’ rooms for private groups, and a main seating area opposite the service counter. Inspired by a bunker layout, each differs in elevation, giving the various sections unique, intimate character. Décor includes framed newspapers from the 1900s discovered while demolishing the previous building, traditional Korean mulberry wallpaper and timber moulding.