6T7 ESPAI CAFÉ, OLOT
The material palette of this cafe responds to the austere grey stone finishes of its immediate surroundings in the Old Town area of Olot in Catalonia. Detailing demonstrates a comparable austerity that positions the new insertions of bar and fixed seating – described by the designers as ‘sculptural’ in acknowledgement of the bar’s secondary role as an exhibition space – at the extreme limits of creature comfort.
The counter, the window seat opposite it and the planes of the long free-standing seating unit are fabricated from steel plates, which were welded on site. Welds were made with great precision so that they do not need to be ground smooth and, like the steel sheets, retain their natural tone and texture. They are strong enough to support the seats which are cantilevered off the backrests. Only the tabletops need a small cantilevered tube support, welded to the vertical centre plates. The steel selected has a dark brown tone and its surface texture has an affinity with the patterns on the rendered walls. Those swirling patterns themselves, made by the plasterer’s float on the sand and cement render of the internal walls have a visual affinity with the texture of the stone in the street. The bluer tone of the polished concrete floor screed is complemented by the smooth painted plaster ceiling in which recessed strip lighting follows the lines of the bar counter and fixed seating.
The defining element of the interior, however, is the perforated screen that lines the longer window wall. Its fragility and emphatic texture contrast with the smoother solidity of internal surfaces and furniture pieces but its construction shows the same directness of thinking and making. The screens were constructed in the designers’ own workshop. Lengths of steel wire were twisted by hand around welded tubular steel frames, so that each panel is unique. They run continuously along the length of the room and filter light and views to the street. The sun, shining through the panels from midday to the end of the afternoon, casts strong patterns on the steel surfaces and the rear rendered wall. The panels hang from a rail at the junction of ceiling and window and may be slid by hand, to make complex, changing facades.