As the final project for Architecture for Non-Architects, I designed a cafe.

I started the project by studying and diagramming six different cafes (top two rows in the image below), looking for commonalities between the designs. I noticed that most of the cafes and coffee shops I observed had a very similar layout, with a counter facing the main entrance and seating scattered throughout the shop. Also, the establishments were divided into areas with different acceptable levels of noise, or public vs private spaces, and the furniture played a large role in defining the atmosphere. After analyzing the shops, I brainstormed three of my own ideas for coffeeshops (last row of the image below), either expanding on or challenging these typical characteristics of cafes.


Ultimately, my final concept was developed from a quest to create a space with a gradient of acceptable noise levels using only one wall. This led to a spiral configuration that pervaded through three iterations of design.

In the first modeling iteration, I built three concept models, each of which contributed to my final design. In the models, chipboard represents walls, blue foam represents “back of house” or serving areas, and dowels represent columns.

  • Design A – Shell Shop creates a space with a gradient of acceptable noise levels using only one wall, leading to a spiral configuration. I created the curved wall by vertically curling the chipboard and then carefully rolling it into the desired shape.
  • Design B – Amphitheater builds off the concept of an ampitheather, creating seating space both above and below the stepped levels.
  • Design C -Pavilion uses columns to define the space.

architecture concept models2

The second modeling iteration is shown below. This design combines the spiral configuration of the Shell Shop and staircase of the Amphitheater. Here, seating area is on top of the steps, while back-of-house areas are underneath the steps. It progresses from the most public spaces at the entrance (bottom right) to the most private spaces at the center of the top floor.

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The final design iteration took the design further by re-incorporating the idea of creating space through columns, as I had done in my Pavilion concept design. Like the second iteration, the spaces progress from most public at the entrance (ordering and outdoor, covered seating) to most private in the center of the top floor. In this case, the spiral is warped to create additional alcoves and variation in space.

My final project deliverables were a floorplan (to scale, by hand), an axiometric drawing (to scale, by hand) and a scale model of the design, shown below. After coming up with the concept, I built the entire cafe in Rhino 3D, and I eventually laser cut the pieces from chipboard for assembly.