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This Coffee Café Turns into a Cocktail Bar at Night, When a Mysterious Personality Emerges

Dynamic lighting is the star of this hybrid design and tourist destination




TOURIST-BASED RETAILING remains challenging given current pandemic protocols. Luckily, ½ Coffee & Bar, a coffee café by day, cocktail bar by night (and gallery in between), resides in a UNESCO World Heritage Site renown for its diversity of architectural styles and hospitable year-round weather. Millions each year visit Gulangyu Island – a pedestrian-only island home to consulates of numerous nations constructed during colonial times – located off the coast of Xiamen in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian.

During the evening, the space transforms from serving coffee and teas to providing cocktails. This change is visually supported by the space’s dynamic lighting.

Occupying a 19th-century domed structure, ½ Coffee & Bar offers patrons views of surrounding beaches and sea. Partners Cai Xuanna and Lin Jiacheng of Cun Panda Nana Architectural Design (Xiamen) worked with the owner on his fourth area location to revitalize the building, which had been damaged in 2016 by Typhoon Meranti.

The design brief directed creation of a “hybrid place that mimics the surrounding natural landscape and integrates local aesthetics.”

This Coffee Café Turns into a Cocktail Bar at Night, When a Mysterious Personality Emerges

The team retained “the original architectural appearance and reshaped the space through internal construction,” says Jiacheng. Much of the original architectural form was left intact, with the team opting for a stylized veranda entrance to the 2690-square-foot space.

Arched openings with pivoting glass doors connect the calm, spacious white and gray interior with the outside. Inspired by a small-leaf native ficus tree, the team interpreted its form as a steel sculpture spreading and stretching – echoing a tree canopy – to cover supports and a series of new skylights. Given the subtropical locale, these features promote ventilation and heat dissipation, while creating shadow and light as the sun moves. While the multi-purpose project on the island’s eastern side is a bit off the beaten path, Xuanna says, “Tourists who like quietness will come to ½ Coffee & Bar.”

Liu Xinghao, Yan Yu Architectural Space Photography

At night, however, ½ Coffee & Bar adopts a more mysterious personality thanks to a choreographed light show and a changing spectrum of color that welcomes cocktail patrons.

Rongwei Ou, lighting designer with Vidlux&Crisman (Hangzhou, China), explains, “We used DMX512 to cascade multiple DMX lamps, which combined with LED DMX drivers (to) form a complete DMX control system.”

The controls, the designer notes, allow lighting to meet the needs of different scenarios, which ½ Coffee & Bar requires.

📷: Liu Xinghao, Yan Yu Architectural Space Photography

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